Norway Oil Fund To Vote Against Apple Pay Scheme

The world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, Norway’s $1.3 trillion (£970bn) oil fund, has said it will vote against Apple’s pay policies amidst a broader shareholder backlash.

The fund also said it would vote against proposals on transparency, forced labour, a civil rights audit and sustainability disclosures, according to a voting intention filing ahead of Apple’s annual shareholder meeting on 4 March.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook earned a total of $98.7m last year, 1,447 times the wages of the company’s average employee, according to a January disclosure.

Investor advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) last week urged investors to vote against Cook’s remuneration, citing concerns about its size and structure.

Shareholder backlash

Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM), which operates the fund, said it would follow the ISS advice, noting issues about Cook’s award of $82m in stock.

“A substantial proportion of annual remuneration should be provided as shares that are locked in for five to ten years, regardless of resignation or retirement,” the bank said.

It added that the board should provide transparency on total remuneration to avoid unacceptable outcomes, and should ensure that “all benefits have a clear business rationale”.

The fund holds about 1 percent of Apple’s shares, making it the company’s eighth largest shareholder.

In addition to the stock awards Cook in 2021 received a $12m cash bonus and $3m in salary.

He was granted $630,630 for personal security costs and $712,488 for personal use of a private jet, perks ISS said “significantly exceeded” awards by comparable companies last year.

Sky-high profits

Shareholder votes are advisory only and do not require the board to take action. About 95 percent of votes cast last year went in Apple’s favour.

The last significant protest vote against Cook’s pay occurred nine years ago, in February 2013, when one-third of the company’s shareholders declined to back its executive compensation scheme.

The previous year Cook had been given a 51 percent increase in his basic salary and other members of the management team granted large equity awards, at a time when Apple’s share price was declining.

The company has been one of those to cash in on the pandemic, with its revenues reaching $123.9bn in the first quarter of 2022, up from $111.4bn a year earlier.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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