At Apple meeting, CEO Cook dismisses monopoly allegations, shareholders support executive pay

The online shareholder meeting, held amid the COVID-19 pandemic, includes a proposal to curb executive pay. That idea gets shot down.

Ian Sherr Contributor and Former Editor at Large / News
Ian Sherr (he/him/his) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so he's always had a connection to the tech world. As an editor at large at CNET, he wrote about Apple, Microsoft, VR, video games and internet troubles. Aside from writing, he tinkers with tech at home, is a longtime fencer -- the kind with swords -- and began woodworking during the pandemic.
Ian Sherr
3 min read
Apple computers

Apple has typically held its shareholder meeting at its HQ, without a livestream. This year was different.

James Martin/CNET

Apple  is fighting legal and PR battles on multiple fronts, including against Facebook, Spotify and Epic Games, maker of  Fortnite . Though each battle is different, all of Apple's rivals in these struggles object to how the iPhone maker wields power over its devices, adding to increasing complaints that the tech giant is running a monopoly. But Apple CEO Tim Cook isn't worried. Scrutiny is fair, he said, but "accusations like these fall apart" on closer examination.

Cook's comments came Tuesday amid Apple's shareholder meeting, which took place online because of the coronavirus pandemic. Apple typically holds its meetings at its headquarters in Cupertino, California, and Cook said he hoped the company will be able to do so again next year. But in the meantime, Apple held a livestream, to which shareholders logged in using details provided by their brokerages. At least one person restreamed the secretive company's meeting on YouTube, till it was removed due to a copyright claim from Apple.

Apple's and other tech companies' annual meetings mark an opportunity for stock owners to vote on board members, as well as the occasional shareholder proposal to push for change. In years past, shareholders have urged Apple to produce reports and tie executive compensation to its environmental efforts. Some shareholders have also asked the company to commit to including more political diversity among its top ranks. (Cook has said he doesn't want to institute a political test for people at Apple).

Though this year was extraordinary in terms of how Apple's shareholder meeting ran, it was business as usual otherwise. Shareholders supported reelecting all the company's board members who were up for a vote, including Arthur Levinson, the board's chairman and former CEO of Genentech. Apple's newest board member, Monica Lozano, head of the College Futures Foundation, helps students of color and low-income students gain access to higher education. Apple has invested in college and tech development programs as part of a $100 million "racial equity and justice" initiative announced in the summer.

Tim Cook Steve Jobs Theater light camera action Apple Park

Tim Cook has led Apple since 2011, when Steve Jobs handed him the reins. Jobs died shortly after.

Screenshot by CNET

Shareholders also voted in support of a nonbinding resolution supporting the company's executive compensation program, including an equity program for Cook that could net him 1 million Apple shares if the company continues to perform well over the next few years. That's on top of the $3 million annual salary he receives. Cook has said he plans to donate his money to charity.

Apple shareholders meanwhile voted down a proposal that would push the company to tie executive pay to the median salary across the company.

In the meeting, Cook praised Apple's resilience despite the pandemic, repeating many of the sentiments he's expressed in previous conference calls with analysts and during Apple product events, about how this year represented a significant challenge. He noted that Apple's acquisition strategy hasn't changed, with the company buying a company every month or so. And though employees appear to be successfully working remotely, Cook said he's looking forward to when they'll be back in the office again.

Apple declined to comment beyond remarks during the meeting.