February 10, 2020
NYC – Leading independent proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) has recommended that Apple shareholders vote FOR a proposal that calls on the company to report on its policies on freedom of expression and to explain how the board oversees these risks. Fundamentally, the resolution asks: is Apple committed to respect freedom of expression as a human right?
The proposal, submitted by Apple shareholders on behalf of international consumer group SumOfUs, responds to public reports that Apple is abetting the government of China’s repression of its people.
>> View the shareholder proposal here: sumofus.org/apple-free-expression
Since institutional investors account for 70% of the shareholders in large cap companies, and these investors vote nearly all of their proxies, a positive recommendation from ISS can drive up the vote substantially.
“Tim Cook talks a great game on privacy at home but quietly complies with the government of China’s cyber-surveillance state,” said Sondhya Gupta, Campaign Manager at SumOfUs. “By facilitating the government of China’s authoritarian regime, Apple is complicit in the brutal repression of Uyghurs, Tibetans and other rights activists.
“In failing to address these major human rights risks, Apple exposes itself to significant reputational risk. Our shareholder proposal would ensure the company mitigates those risks by guaranteeing board-level accountability for freedom of expression. We’re delighted that ISS recognises this and is recommending shareholders support our proposal, to help bring about this change.”
Apple complies with China’s oppressive censorship laws, as well as direct demands by Beijing. The company has blocked over 1,000 virtual private network (VPN) apps from its China App Store, which enable people to browse the internet without being surveilled. It has delisted the HKmap.live app, which was used by people in the Hong Kong protests to avoid violent confrontation with the police. The company has also banned device engravings in Apple Stores in China that use ‘sensitive’ terms that are blacklisted by the government of China – such as Tibet, Tiananmen and the Dalai Lama.
“Around 20% of Apple’s sales and over 90% of its production capacity are in China. The company has successfully addressed concerns about its facilitation of human rights abuses in the past, when poor working conditions, under-age labor, forced labor and suicides were reported in factories that produced Apple products. Tim Cook has shown leadership on these issues before and in addressing the right to free expression has the opportunity to guarantee the company’s future,” said Sondhya Gupta.
ISS is a leading independent, third-party proxy advisory firm which, among other services, provides proxy voting recommendations to pension funds, investment managers, mutual funds and other institutional shareholders.
Notes to editors:
- View the SumOfUs shareholder proposal here: sumofus.org/apple-free-expression
- View the SumOfUs exempt solicitation letter to Apple shareholders here: https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/320193/000138713120000386/aapl-px14a6g_022620.htm
- The Apple shareholder meeting will take place on February 26, 2020 at Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, CA.