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Dec. 29 — Apple Inc. shareholders may get to vote on a resolution calling on the computer giant to adopt an “accelerated recruitment policy” to increase the diversity of its senior managers and board members, after a determination by Securities and Exchange Commission staff.
The proposal, submitted Sept. 23 by shareholder Antonio Avian Maldonado II, advocates for more “people of colour” among Apple officers and directors.
In a Dec. 11 “no-action” letter, the SEC's Division of Corporation Finance said it could not concur with Apple's view that the proposal seeks to micromanage the company to a degree that it could be excluded from Apple's proxy materials under the SEC's “ordinary business” exclusion rule—Rule 14a-8(i)(7). The staff also didn't agree that the company lacks the power to implement the measure, which would be a basis for omitting it under Rule 14a-8(i)(6).
The shareholder proposal would ask the board to recruit more African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos and other people of color.
In his letter to Apple, Maldonado said that the “number of minorities holding senior management-level positions or board of directorship within the Company does not reflect the Company's demographic data,” and he pointed to a statement on Apple's website that says diversity is “critical to innovation” and “essential to Apple's future.”
Increased diversity could advance “creativity, innovation, productivity and morale, while eliminating the limitations of ‘groupthink,'” his letter said.
Attempts to reach Apple for comment were not successful.
In another recent staff action, Apple was denied no-action relief from a human-rights proposal asking its board to report on the company's guidelines for selecting countries for its operations.
Separately, a proposal asking Apple to report on its plans for reducing a gender pay gap was withdrawn by its proponent, the investment firm of Baldwin Brothers Inc.
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The no-action letter is available at http://www.sec.gov/divisions/corpfin/cf-noaction/14a-8/2015/antoniomaldonado121115-14a8.pdf.
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