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Apple CEO Tim Cook refutes investor call for 'profits above all'

updated 11:40 pm EST, Fri February 28, 2014

Conservative group's proposal questioned costs of environmental initiatives, more

A shareholder questioner from a conservative front group, the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR), who questioned Apple's humanitarian policies of worker education, services for the disabled, and particularly environmental initiatives -- and also demanded that the company commit to only policies and projects that were explicitly profitable -- was sternly rebuked by Apple CEO Tim Cook in an unusually direct exchange.

Cook was visibly and audibly offended by the questions, say observers present at the annual Apple Shareholder's Meeting, and was described as "clearly angry" and as having "lost his cool" at the proposal, which called for Apple to put profit ahead of all other concerns in everything the company does, Mac Observer reported. He categorically rejected the worldview behind the NCPPR's mentality, saying that their are many things Apple does simply because they are "right and just," without consideration to the possible return on investment (ROI).

"When we work on making our devices accessible by the blind," Cook allegedly said to the questioner in an unusually rapid-fire response, "I don't consider the bloody ROI." He went on to say that the same rationale applied to environmental issues, worker safety and education and other areas where he described the company as "a leader" among the industry's various other companies.

Cook ended his answer by looking directly at the NCPPR representative and saying "if you want me to do things only for ROI reasons, you should get out of this stock." The group later issued a press release criticizing Cook, claiming that shareholder value is "destroyed" in pursuit of such goals, critical and referring to climate change as a hoax spearheaded by Apple board member (and former Vice President) Al Gore.

The shareholder proposal was, however, voted on -- with the NCPPR position receiving just 2.95 percent in favor. With both the company itself, the Board of Directors and 97 percent of voting shareholders behind him, Cook sent a clear signal that policies on transparency, environmental concern and protection of civil rights -- all "political" causes the company has undertaken -- will continue.




by MacNN Staff

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Comments

  1. TheGreatButcher

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: 06-11-00

    As an AAPL stockholder, I'm one of the 97% pleased with Cook's response.

  1. JackWebb

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 08-31-07

    That's criticism sounded very shallow and not very conservative. Goodwill, training and helping people is an important part of even a big business. People like Henry Ford demonstrated this works very well a century ago.

  1. iphonerulez

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 11-28-08

    That's the end of Apple's shareholder value when the CEO announces to Wall Street that it's foremost concerns are not profit. No wonder the stock dropped while Tim Cook was on the podium. Wall Street is run by greedy individuals who value fast money above all else and the environment be damned. Tim Cook has just given Apple the kiss of death. Thinking like an environmentalist is one thing but for a company CEO to announce it to shareholders and potential investors that they're not strictly driven by profits is almost sacrilege. Apple stock is already toxic because the company can't make enough profits and potential growth is predicted by Wall Street to be zero. As it is, no smart investor expecting returns will go near Apple stock. Cook may believe in what he is saying, but clearly Wall Street does not.

  1. JackWebb

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 08-31-07

    In the long run the stock will do fine if the fundamentals do fine. Profit is important and without it you get no incentive to produce the things that we find valuable. But again, it's been demonstrated enough that there are different methods to profit and the public image of a company is very important to it being profitable unless it is a government protected monopoly at which point it is usually despised and little can be done.

  1. Zanziboy

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 08-27-08

    It sounds like NCPPR has little to do with "public" policy and more to do with encouraging creating an Ayn Rand capitalist nightmare.

  1. TomMcIn

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 12-21-01

    Given the number of screw ups by the stock market and the people that influence it - the last Financial Meltdown - and the seemingly never ending ability to cause AAPL prices to go down each quarter when Apple misses the Analysts estimates - they are a group that has only their own greedy interests in mind. Can anyone name any companies these people operate at the profit level Apple produces?

  1. JackWebb

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 08-31-07

    People (companies and their stockholders) make profits by serving other people with efficient production, service and acts of goodwill and go out of business when they fail at these... unless they are deceitful or protected monopolies by law and even in those cases it doesn't tend to last. With the inherently selfish aims of people on all sides of commerce, this capitalism has the best record of serving people despite all the foibles. Informed consumers certainly make it better and these stands by Cook should have some weight in that area. I'm more impressed by this broader view of business than the running of a deceitful or abusive to workers business and then assuaging one's guilt by philanthrope as in Gates and Carnegie.

  1. chas_m

    MacNN Staff

    Joined: 08-04-01

    Originally Posted by iphonerulezView Post

    That's the end of Apple's shareholder value when the CEO announces to Wall Street that it's foremost concerns are not profit.



    Luckily, Cook said no such thing and you have simply grossly misinterpreted what I presume you actually read. Cook didn't say that profit wasn't important; he said that *sometimes* the company does things without consideration for the ROI, such as making the iPhone accessible to disable people or using alternative energy, because such decisions are "just and right."

    I've seen no evidence whatsoever that Cook's views on this subject (which, incidentally, mirror Jobs' views) have cost Apple any consequences whatsoever, and in fact I'd say quite the opposite has been the result.

    Now that you understand the remark better, are you really sure you want to pronounce the company "doomed?" Cuz I gotta tell ya, there's a loooonnnnggg line of people waiting for their "doomed" prediction to come true ...

  1. apostle

    Junior Member

    Joined: 04-16-08

    Yay Tim Cook!

    At the end of the day, all you take with you - all for which you are remembered, is who you were (are). The NCPPR are perfectly within their rights to be remembered as low-life bottom feeders. If they are happy to have their epitaphs read "Here Lies Scum" - more power to them. I personally tend to side with those with a moral conscience....

    ap

  1. chucker

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 03-29-07

    I'm more upset to find out there are 3% of shareholders who actually agreed with this non-sense, but then again looking at the world today, you realise that these people sadly have quite a lot of say in the way things are.

  1. coffeetime

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: 11-15-06

    Agree with Cook. NCPPR is pure greed. Apple is doing fine. Putting ROI ahead of the game will end up like Microsoft..... crappy products and continue on the decline, a slow near-death-experience just like IBM. Apple was once reaching near-dearth-experience because of those greed investors/board members..... never again. Cook is right. Steve Jobs picked the right man.

  1. Loren

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 03-20-01

    These NCPPR folks are not properly breast-fed, that's all there is to it. They are colicky and need to be burped out of the group.

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    Originally Posted by iphonerulezView Post

    That's the end of Apple's shareholder value when the CEO announces to Wall Street that it's foremost concerns are not profit. No wonder the stock dropped while Tim Cook was on the podium. Wall Street is run by greedy individuals who value fast money above all else and the environment be damned. Tim Cook has just given Apple the kiss of death. Thinking like an environmentalist is one thing but for a company CEO to announce it to shareholders and potential investors that they're not strictly driven by profits is almost sacrilege. Apple stock is already toxic because the company can't make enough profits and potential growth is predicted by Wall Street to be zero. As it is, no smart investor expecting returns will go near Apple stock. Cook may believe in what he is saying, but clearly Wall Street does not.



    Even if this were the case, why would it matter?

  1. DiabloConQueso

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 06-11-08

    If I were Cook, I probably would have said, "We've taken the stock from around $10 to nearly $600 (sometimes more), with two two-for-one splits in there (making it really around $2,400), in the span of 15 years, and you're splitting hairs over ROI? You're insane. If you think we need to go changing the success formula today, you truly don't understand what makes a great company great. We will not put the company's obviously lucrative and bright future at risk for some idiot yahoo looking for a short-term investment gain."

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    ^ But that would have been the equivalent of saying "we agree completely; we just have a much better idea of how to go about it long-term than you do."

    Which was decidedly NOT what he wanted to say.

  1. And.reg

    Mac Elite

    Joined: 02-22-04

    Nice to hear Tim Cooking up a storm.

  1. vipm

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 10-01-06

    When a company is known to do the right thing, it creates goodwill -- more people want to use that company's products and services. It's stock goes up. When a company says it only does things for profit or for the bottom line, it creates a bad image -- people will try to look for alternative products and services rather than the company's. It's stock eventually goes down. So it doesn't make economic sense to follow NCPPR policy unless you were brought up as one of the entitled one percent who have no perception of right and wrong, no sense of what has real, lasting value and what is temporary stupidity.

  1. danviento

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 12-28-05

    R&D for the less-abled: certainly worth it.
    R&D to shut the hippies up- only worth it if it actually works. So far, no dice on this point. It doesn't help when the man's sympathies lie with them...

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    Originally Posted by danvientoView Post

    R&D for the less-abled: certainly worth it.
    R&D to shut the hippies up- only worth it if it actually works. So far, no dice on this point. It doesn't help when the man's sympathies lie with them...



    Reality burns, don't it.

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