NY Times Columnists Take A Bite Out Of Apple

In a piece that was syndicated in the New York Times on February 27, Reuters Breakingviews columnists Rob Cox and Robert Cyran said Apple’s management took ‘far too long…to reveal that, with its visionary leader Steve Jobs on leave for health reasons, 30 per cent of its shareholders wanted more information on how the company would be run if he did not return.’

The columnists were referring to a non-biding resolution calling for the adoption and disclosure of an executive succession plan. Put forth by the Central Laborers’ Pension Fund at Apple’s annual meeting on February 23, the resolution won approximately 30 per cent of the shareholder vote— not enough to pass, but definitely enough to register on business journalists’ radar screens. 

Which it did.

Bearing titles as descriptive as ‘Apple shareholders reject succession disclosure,’ papers from the Los Angelus Times to the New York Post reported news of the resolution and its failure to pass. Cox’s and Cyran’s column nevertheless criticised the iPad maker for failing to provide a break down of the vote, the result of which Apple ‘slipped…into a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission’ the next day.

That’s too late, says Carl Hagberg, who has served as the inspector of elections at more than 400 shareholder annual and special meetings. Apple execs likely knew the results of the election at the meeting itself.

‘You can’t image they got a material number of votes at the meeting itself, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt,’ Hagberg says. “If they were still counting, they just should have said so. They should have said they were double-checking.’

Even after the election results were posted on the Web, they were hard to find, Hagberg further maintains.

‘Here’s a company that makes its money on its proficiency with computers and the investor relations part of their web site is disgracefully bad,” he says. ‘It’s so disappointing. I’m an Apple investor. I own at $7 a share. So I’m very happy. Almost every investor is happy. But– when it comes to corporate governance– they repeatedly do things that are like a slap in the face to investors. It’s as if they really don’t think this is serious.’

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