During its earnings release over a week ago, Apple announced a new $100 billion share buyback program. The move, while praised by some investors, has been controversial among some who say Apple should put its profits to use in another manner. Now, American politician Ralph Nader is joining those criticizing the new buyback program…

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This week, Nader published an open letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook, explaining how there are better ways for Apple to put that money to work. Nader opens the letter by criticizing Tim Cook for not consulting Apple stockholders for their approval:

Last week, you announced the largest single stock buyback in corporate history, amounting to $100 billion.  Probably no more than you and two other Apple executives made this decision prior to receiving the expected rubber stamp from your congenial board of directors.  Your company’s owners – Apple stockholders– were neither consulted nor asked for their approval.

Nader also notes that the success of stock buybacks is a mixed bag – pointing to Cisco as an example. “Cisco, after huge buybacks and much greater profits and size, has its stock about one-half of its March 2000 value,” Nader writes.

Perhaps most notably, however, the politician outlines the other ways Apple could have used its profits that “would receive positive public reactions.”

First, Nader says that for 2 percent of that $100 billion buyback – or $2 billion – Apple could “award a full year’s pay bonus to the 350,000 Foxconn workers. Such a move would provide “economic relief and happiness” to the workers who “sweat for your immense wealth in difficult workplace conditions, unable to afford the Apple phones they manufacture.”

Nader then suggests Apple use some of the $100 billion on research and development, specifically relating to improving supply chain conditions:

You can invest in research and development on ways you can diminish the effects of your company’s toxic supply chain that stretches from the dangerous mines in Africa to the hazardous solid waste disposal when users discard them.  Many serious illnesses, fatalities, and injuries associated with manufacturing your products can be prevented.

Next up, he says some of the money could be used to “reduce some of the collateral damage from excessive iPhone use by youngsters that comes with a sedentary life of obesity.” While Apple has already promised stronger parental controls to help overuse of its technology, Nader suggests the company “invest in needed neighborhood recreational facilities all over the country.”

Nader writes that Apple would also cut prices for consumers, alleging that its current profit margins used to be a signal of market collusion and antitrust:

Of course, you could always cut your prices for consumers. In the 1960s and ‘70s, such profit margins as Apple’s would have been an antitrust signal of possible monopolistic practices or market collusion.

Finally, Nader says the conventional uses of corporate cash would also be acceptable, such as increasing salaries and pensions, improving hiring, and more:

Then there are the conventional applications of a cash-rich company to consider: productive new investments, raising employee salaries and pensions, improving hiring practices, and workforce training and consumer services.

The important thing to note here is that Apple announced a $350 billion investment in the United States economy – so the $100 billion buyback program accounts for less than one-third of that. Thus, it’s possible that the company will use the remainder for things like Nader outlined.

Do you agree with Nader that the $100 billion that Apple will use for the buyback could have been better put elsewhere? Let us know down in the comments.


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