The National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPR)—a conservative economic free-market activist think tank—has unleashed a broadside at Apple CEO Tim Cook, who they charge with telling Apple Investors who care more about return on investment than climate change that their money is no longer welcome.
The National Center rails against Apple board member Al Gore’s cheering the company’s dedication to environmental activism, which they say is causing investors to wonder just how much shareholder value is being destroyed in efforts to combat what they refer to disparagingly as “Climate Change” (their quotations), and have presented a Shareholder Resolution to Apple calling for consumer transparency on environmental issues, and saying the company is balking.
In a media release unsubtly titled: ”Tim Cook to Apple Investors: Drop Dead,” the National Center declares that at Apple’s annual shareholders meeting in Cupertino, California, on February 28, company CEO Tim Cook informed investors who are primarily concerned with making reasonable economic returns that their money is no longer welcome—a message that came in response to the National Center for Public Policy Research’s shareholder resolution asking Apple to be transparent about its environmental activism and a supplementary question from the National Center about the company’s environmental initiatives.
“Mr. Cook made it very clear to me that if I, or any other investor, was more concerned with return on investment than reducing carbon dioxide emissions, my investment is no longer welcome at Apple,” said Justin Danhof, Esq., director of the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project. Mr. Danhof also asked Mr. Cook about the company’s green energy pursuits—whether the company’s environmental investments have increased or decreased the company’s bottom line. After initially suggesting that the investments make economic sense, Mr. Cook affirmed that Apple would pursue environmental goals even if there was no economic payoff at all to the venture.
Mr. Danhof further asked if the company’s projects would continue to make sense if the federal government stopped heavily subsidizing alternative energy, at which point the report says Mr. Cook completely ignored the inquiry and became “visibly agitated.”
Mr. Danhof persevered in asking if Mr. Cook was willing to amend Apple’s corporate documents to indicate that the company would not pursue environmental initiatives unless there is some sort of reasonable enhancement of return on investment—similar to the concession the National Center recently received from General Electric. The release says this question was greeted by boos and hisses from “the Al gore (sic) contingency in the room.”
“Here’s the bottom line: Apple is as obsessed with the theory of so-called climate change as its board member Al Gore is,” Mr. Danhof commented. “The company’s CEO fervently wants investors who care more about return on investments than reducing CO2 emissions to no longer invest in Apple. Maybe they should take him up on that advice.”
“Although the National Center’s proposal did not receive the required votes to pass, millions of Apple shareholders now know that the company is involved with organizations that don’t appear to have the best interest of Apple’s investors in mind,” Mr. Danhof continued. “Too often investors look at short-term returns and are unaware of corporate policy decisions that may affect long-term financial prospects. After today’s meeting, investors can be certain that Apple is wasting untold amounts of shareholder money to combat so-called climate change. The only remaining question is: how much?”
The National Center’s shareholder resolution noted that “[s]ome trade associations and business organizations have expanded beyond the promotion of traditional business goals and are lobbying business executives to pursue objectives with primarily social benefits. This may affect Company profitability and shareholder value. The Company’s involvement and acquiescence in these endeavors lacks transparency, and publicly-available information about the Company’s trade association memberships and related activities is minimal. An annual report to shareholders will help protect shareholder value.”
Apple’s full 2014 proxy statement is available at investor.apple.com. The National Center’s proposal, “Report on Company Membership and Involvement with Certain Trade Associations and Business Organizations,” appears on page 60.
The National Center says it filed the resolution, in part, because of Apple’s membership in the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), one of the country’s largest trade associations. In its 2013 “Retail Sustainability Report,” RILA states:
Companies will often develop individual or industry voluntary programs to reduce the need for government regulations. If a retail company minimizes its waste generation, energy and fuel usage, land-use footprint, and other environmental impacts, and strives to improve the labor conditions of the workers across its product supply chains, it will have a competitive advantage when regulations are developed.
“This shows that rather than fighting increased government regulation, RILA is cooperating with Washington, D.C.’s stranglehold on American business in a misguided effort to stop so-called climate change,” said Mr. Danhof. “That is not an appropriate role for a trade association.”
For even more information on RILA, read “The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA): A Cartel that Threatens Innovation and Competitiveness” by National Center Senior Fellow Dr. Bonner Cohen.
“Rather than opting for transparency, Apple opposed the National Center’s resolution,” noted Mr. Danhof. “Apple’s actions, from hiring of President Obama’s former head of the Environmental Protection Agency Lisa Jackson, to its investments in supposedly 100 percent renewable data centers, to Cook’s antics at today’s meeting, appear to be geared more towards combating so-called climate change rather than developing new and innovative phones and computers.”
After Mr. Danhof presented the proposal, a representative of CalPERS rose to object and stated that climate change should be one of corporate America’s primary concerns, and after she called carbon dioxide emissions a “mortal danger,” Apple board member and former vice president Al Gore turned around and loudly clapped and cheered.
“If Apple wants to follow Al Gore and his chimera of climate change, it does so at its own peril,” said Mr. Danhof. “Sustainability and the free market can work in concert, but not if Al Gore is directing corporate behavior.”
“Tim Cook, like every other American, is entitled to his own political views and to be an activist of any legal sort he likes on his own time,” said Amy Ridenour, chairman of the National Center for Public Policy Research. “And if Tim Cook, private citizen, does not care that over 95 percent of all climate models have over-forecast the extent of predicted global warming, and wishes to use those faulty models to lobby for government policies that raise prices, kill jobs and retard economic growth and extended lifespans in the Third World, he has a right to lobby as he likes. But as the CEO of a publicly-held corporation, Tim Cook has a responsibility to, consistent with the law, to make money for his investors. If he’d rather be CEO of the Sierra Club or Greenpeace, he should apply.”
“As in the past, Cook took but a handful of questions from the many shareholders present who were eager to ask a question at the one meeting a year in which shareholder questions are taken,” added Ms. Ridenour, “leaving many disappointed. Environmentalism may be a byword at Apple, but transparency surely is not.”
The National Center’s Free Enterprise Project is a free-market corporate activist group, Free Enterprise Project representatives of which attended 33 shareholder meetings in 2013, advancing free-market ideals in the areas of health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, media bias, gun rights and other public policy issues. Last week’s Apple meeting was the National Center’s third attendance at a shareholder meeting so far in 2014.
The National Center for Public Policy Research is an Apple shareholder, as are National Center executives. The Center, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations, and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors.
It’s fascinating that factions of conservatives (not all; this writer self-identifies as conservative, and is very much convinced that anthropocentric climate change is a present and future reality) are still able to remain in climate change denial even with “once in a hundred years” weather events occurring on almost a weekly basis somewhere on the globe over the past couple of years or so. A topical example is the polar vortex that’s been blast freezing much of the U.S.and Canada this winter, caused—meteorologists maintain—by Arctic warming driving the upper atmospheric Jet Stream on a meandering and sluggish path well south of where it should be.
Anyway, Tim Cook’s response to the NCPPR’s diatribe was reportedly little short of apoplectic. The Mac Observer’s Bryan Chaffin reports that in delivering an emotional response Mr. Cook soundly rejected the ideology-driven politics of the NCPPR and indeed suggested that the Center stop investing in Apple if it doesn’t like his approach to sustainability and other issues.
The NCPPR release didn’t mention that its shareholder proposal was rejected by an overwhelming majority of Apple’s shareholders, receiving a minuscule 2.95 percent of the vote, and Mr. Chaffin observes that the exchange at the meeting was the only time he can recall seeing Tim Cook angry, with the CEO categorically rejecting the worldview behind the NCPPR’s advocacy, and noting that there are many things Apple does because they are right and just, with return on investment (ROI) not the primary consideration on such issues.
“When we work on making our devices accessible by the blind,” Chaffin cites Mr. Cook allowing, “I don’t consider the bloody ROI,” adding that the same principle applies whether it’s about environmental issues, worker safety, and other areas where Apple is a leader. He observes that Mr. Cook’s use of “bloody” in his response was the closest thing to public profanity he’s ever heard from Mr. Cook, clearly indicating that he was quite angry, with his body language changing, his face contracted, and his speech coming in rapid fire sentences compared to his usual metered and controlled mode of speaking as he looked directly at the NCPPR representative and said, “If you want me to do things only for ROI reasons, you should get out of this stock” which Chaffin interprets as Mr. Cook’s clear and emphatic rejection of the climate change denial and anything-for-the-sake-of-profits politics advocated by the NCPPR, as well as an unequivocal message that Apple will continue to invest in sustainable energy and related areas, for example planning on having 100 percent of its power come from green sources.
For more information on Apple’s environmental impact and policies, visit www.apple.com.