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APPLE

Tim Cook is Apple's Chief Executive Officer and the first executive of a Fortune 500 company to be openly gay, although Jeff Bezos of Amazon is a major supporter of gay causes. Cook was previously Apple's COO, until the passing of Apple founder Steve Jobs in 2011. In 2018 Apple became the first company in the world to be valued at over 1 trillion dollars. Cook's net worth is more than $625 million, which is extraordinary considering that he has never founded a company, the normal route to tech riches.

    There is no particular reason why the CEO of a company that produces phones, laptops, and other computer hardware and services should be politicized, but Cook, and by implication, Apple, have become engaged in ongoing debates with President Trump on a wide range of public policy issues. One of the main problems with Big Tech diverting attention and resources to public policy and media is that before they can run the world, they really ought to do a better job running their own companies, and correcting their own moral failings. As the saying goes, "Let everyone sweep in front of his own door and the whole world will be clean. - Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe"
  • Those who manufacture iPhones for Apple have been accused of serious humans right abuses, including working conditions leading to suicide and beatings leading to death.
  • Apple has been accused of designing the iphones so that older versions purposely slow down, thus resulting in more purchases of new phones.
  • Apple, like Facebook, has had its fair share of data breaches causing many to question the safety of their personal data.
    Publicly traded corporations really have only 3 legitimate missions:
  1. To create a product or service that adds value.
  2. To do so in an ethical way, with as much transparency as possible, honoring all contracts, and misleading no one.
  3. To do so profitably, creating free cash flow distributed to shareholders in the form of dividends.

Following the Money


Apple has accumulated a huge cash pile, about $237 billion. That is a remarkable amount of cash, and one would think that the natural thing to do would be to return all that cash to the people who own the company - the shareholders. But they don't do that, and you can learn a lot about Big tech by the fact that these companies don't return much cash to shareholders. Sometimes they cite the tax consequences of divident payments, but that's a spurious argument. The truth is that Big Tech knows better than you what you should do with your money, so they're always going to keep as much of it as possible.

They use a lot of cash to buy back shares rather than just paying the money to shareholders, and this is one of the many cases where superficially sophisticated arguments are used to bilk shareholders out of money. Supposedly by using cash to buy back shares, companies increase the value of shares outstanding. But this rarely actually happens. When cash flow is high it signals economic good times, and that usually means high share prices. So companies become buyers when share prices are high. In September of 2018 for instance, Apple was one of the market's biggest buyer's of stock, paying an average price of $222 per share or about $9 billion in total. Apple stock closed at $156 on December 28th. So by speculating on it's own stock, Apple has managed to lose $66/share, or about 30% of its investment in the course of 3 months, which is a stunning loss. Yet, the people responsible, such as the CEO and CFO, will no doubt recieve huge salaries and bonuses in 2018.

So why doesn't Big Tech return as much cash as possiblel to shareholders in the form of dividends? For the very simple reason that tech CEO's treat publicly traded companies like their own private playpens, and cash that is distributed to shareholders doesn't provide play money to tech execs. (Money that is used for buybacks can increase per share earnings, since few shares are outstanding, and since executive bonuses are often based on per-share figures, they can help execs to sweeter bonuses.)

What do they really use all that cash for? More left wing content! (Spending a bunch of money on content will never increase shareholder returns, but it's a heck of a lot more fun that giving it back to the people who own the company.)

Tim CookCook and Apple make a big deal of supporting causes like gay rights or anti-hate groups, although we’re not sure what those groups really do with the money they receive and they have nothing to do with Apple’s core business. Meanwhile, conditions for the workers making Apple’s actual products are so bad that some of those workers commit suicide.
In an interview with Jim Cramer, Cook made it clear he was at odds with the U.S. government when he declared it to be dysfunctional. He also said he believes corporations should have a more government-like responsibility of bringing about change in our society.

Why? Can't hard phone manufacturers stick to manufacturing phones and computers? The Apple board elected Cook CEO of Apple, but Americans certainly didn't elect him to change society. But Big Tech leaders seem to believe that because they have grown rich and powerful as heads of technology companies, that gives them the right - even the responsibility - of using their power to change society. And that change is hard to the left, despite the fact that most Americans don't share the political or cultural values of Big Tech leaders.

Tim Cook and President Trump Sound Off

  • Tim Cook has had quite a bit to say about the Trump Administration:Tim with Trump
  • Trump has also had his fair share of criticism for Apple and its CEO:
  • Despite Cook's obvious hatred for Trump's policies, Cook seems to realize the importance of keeping communications open with the President, if only to get what he wants:

Original Content Creation

  • Apple is now creating TV shows and movies.
    • Culver City is expected to be the base of a Hollywood operation to which Apple last year allocated an initial $1 billion for developing programming and poaching top talent. In January, the company leased 128,000 square feet of office and retail space in the Los Angeles-area town, which is home to Sony Pictures Entertainment and its Culver Studios, where classics like “Citizen Kane” and “Gone With the Wind” were made.
      -Wall Street Journal
      In doing so, they join other big tech companies, including Netflix, Google, and Amazon, in joining a very crowded and virtually profitless world of digital media. Producing original content is one of Netflix's core competencies, but they lost about $3 billion in 2018. Verizon purchased AOL and Yahoo and then wrote off the purchases by $4.6 billion. In fact, it's almost impossible to find a content creator that is truly profitable. Sure, Marissa Mayer was able to personally enrich herself by over $200 million by finding the greater fool buyer in Verizon, but in the long run, no tech company is really generating free cash flow by producing original content. Even a traditional media company like Disney, which does produce free cash flow, makes more profits from its theme parks than from its movie studios.

      App Store and Play StoreSo why is big tech getting into original content production? They say it because of ancillary and complementary services. Google has "google play", and Apple's app store generates a lot of revenue. Amazon uses original content as a value added for its Prime membership services. All of this makes sense, but only on a very superficial level. The vast majority of Alphabet's revenues come from Googles search advertising, and there is no indication that will change.

      Apple is a very profitable maker of smartphones - perhaps the only profitable maker of smartphones, and it certainly doesn't need original content to make the app store work. People sign up for Amazon Prime to get free delivery of merchandise, not digital content. And even if they wanted digital content, there is already an ocean of content available for licensing without creating more. If you do the accounting carefully, and measure return on investment in different segments, there is simply no financial justification for Big Tech's entry into original content. The costs of content production are very high - just look at Netflix's losses. The supply of original content is huge and growing, and users are very reluctant to pay for digital content. Streaming services all lose money and can't get customers if they charge more than a very modest monthly fee.

      New Movies & Music
      Source : [Factfulness by Hans Rosling]

      In order to understand this, you really need to look at the personal motivations of the top executives at these companies. These are very rich men; they don't need more fancy cars or big houses; they can buy whatever they want. But wouldn't it be fun to be a movie producer, especially if all the losses were absorbed by shareholders and not you personally?

      Basically, these companies are moving into content production because the CEOs want to be able to use shareholder money to advance their personal political and cultural agendas - and those agendas are uniformly liberal.
      CEO's have always overpaid for media assets, and for all the wrong reasons from a business point of view. But when Jeff Bezos paid $250 million for the Washington Post or Marc Benioff paid $180 million for Time magazine, it really had nothing to do with business; it was about an expensive hobby and having a cultural and political impact. But in those two cases, the tech billionaires both used their own money to buy existing media assets.

      In the case of original content, tech CEOs are using corporate funds so they can have a personal impact; essentially socializing the costs of media production while privatizing the benefits.
      Note that big corporations have a long history of this sort of thing, but generally on a less expensive level. Corporations host Pro-Am golf tournaments so that the CEOs can play golf with celebrities. They donate money to art museums, so their spouses can sit on the boards of those museums, or attend fancy charity balls. None of this is right, but it’s petty larceny instead of the grand larceny now taking place with Big Tech.

      When Big Tech moves into media, value destruction takes place on an unprecedented scale.
      The best example? AOL was the ultimate Big Tech of the first Internet wave. When AOL purchased Time Warner in 2000 for $165 billion it marked the top of the Tech market. It was also the greatest destruction of value in corporate history. AOL Time Warner Inc. reported a 2002 net loss of $98.7 billion after taking a fourth-quarter charge of $45.5 billion.

      Even after this historic losses, Big Tech wasn’t finished with destroying these assets. In 2015 Verizon, the huge telecom company, bought AOL, a shell of its former self, for $4.4 billion. Verizon also purchased Yahoo in 2017 for $4.5 billion. In late 2018 Verizon wrote those assets down in value by $4.6 billion. Meanwhile, the former Time Warner, sold its crown jewel, Time magazine, to Salesforce founder Mark Benioff for $180 million. Time Warner is still worth a lot of money, about $95 billion, but in inflation-adjusted terms, it has shrunk in value by about 60% since the AOL merger.

PUBLIC POLICY, LOBBYING, AND POLITICAL DONATIONS

  • Apple's Liberal Corporate Philanthropy and Political Spending Obama Connect Ed
    • Apple joined President Obama's ConnectED initiative and pledged $100 million in donated Apple products to schools in the U.S.
    • Apple's Product Red program donates to the Global Fund for AIDS patients, now over $120 million through Apple. We don't really care that Cook is gay. However, we do care that he uses shareholder funds to advance his personal political agenda. Cook, like most tech CEOs, is a rich man. If he, or any of the other big tech executives, wish to donate their personal funds to causes, that's their personal business. But using corporate funds to advance a personal political agenda is really simply stealing from shareholders.Apple Red Program
    • $40 million has been given to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund to boost opportunities for those attending historically black colleges and universities.
    • Apple has also donated to the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, National Center for Women and Information Technology, the National Society of Black Engineers, and the World Wildlife Fund.
    • Tim Cook promised his staff Apple would donate $2 million to anti-hate groups.
      Tim Cook's Tweet

      These donations are really emblematic of big tech; Google, Jeff Bezos, and Apple all donate and advocate for the same causes; women in computing, gay rights, the advancement of blacks. These donations reflect the values of the communities in which these companies were founded, but in no way to they reflect the balanced interests of the companies' customers or shareholders.

      For detailed information about Big Tech political spending visit OpenSecrets.org.

Noteworthy Personal Investments of Tim Cook

This is noteworthy only because it illustrates the point we have made before in regard to Jeff Bezo's investment in Google and many other cases; big tech companies may seem to compete with each other, but in reality that competition is often illusory, as the executives of these companies invest together and their companies often work together.

THE APPLE INC. MONOPOLY: ACQUISITIONS AND INVESTMENTS

  • Monopolistic Qualities of Apple
    • iPhone XSOne doesn't have to wonder long about Apple's smartphone profit domination. The most recent version of the iPhone is a whopping $1,500 before taxes! That's the price for the 512GB variety of the iPhone XS Max. Somehow, Cook feels he can defend the price of these phones and ironically claimed, "We [Apple] want to make an iPhone for everyone." Sorry Cook, but $1,500 is not what the average person budgets for a new phone.This kind of comment illustrates the rampant hypocrisy of Big Tech. They all talk about being "inclusive" and "for everyone" but in fact they are completely insulated, unless "everyone" means gay liberals living in New York or San Francisco. Big Tech is run by rich, liberal, urban men completely divorced from the values and lifestyles of most Americans. And this is very apparent in the kind of media they produce and the political causes they champion.
    • In 2016, Apple's 30% commission fee slapped on App Store consumer purchases spurred the Supreme Court to look into potential monopolistic surcharges.
    • Apple iBookstore has also gotten itself into some antitrust problems: "Penguin Pays $75 Million Settlement in Apple eBook Price Fixing Case", [Cult of Mac, 2013].
    • Apple's share of the smartphone market is rising and as of Q4 2017 they had 45% of the US smartphone market in the bank. But just because they've cornered almost half of the market doesn't mean they are only bringing in half the profits. In Q4 2017, Apple generated a mind-blowing 87% of all smartphone profits! This has many worried about Apple's potential for monopoly-like activity in the future.
    • Apple payIn the fall of 2016, Apple launched a new campaign to badger iPhone users to enroll in its mobile payment service. Currently, Apple Pay is linked by approximately 34% of users. Many fear this level of "nagging" is, in fact, a flagrant violation of antitrust law.
    • Tim Cook admits Apple curates its directories controlling the apps and content to which Apple users have easy access. Cook made it clear he feels that Apple users want a tailored and curated directory when explaining Apple's banning of conservatives like Alex Jones from Infowars. "Such "curation" is more like censorship, as Apple's choices reflect their very liberal political outlook.
  • Noteworthy Apple Acquisitions and Investments
    • Didi ChuxingIn 2016, Apple invested $1 billion in a ride-hailing business called Didi (a China-based company). Some speculate this investment is tied to Cook's desire to promote Apple services in China (e.g., Apple Pay), to collect info to support potential work on Apple's own autonomous vehicles, and recover some of the goodwill that was lost when Chinese regulators banned Apple's online books and films services that same year. This illustrates a problem; when a tech company starts becoming a media company they are subject to the laws of countries that censor political or cultural content. So tech companies are forced to become very political, and in such a way that they are allowed to do business with countries like Communist China.

DOING BUSINESS WITH THE GOVERNMENT

  • Tim Cook's Fight with the Federal Government
    • "Tim Cook: 'something I hope never to see again' How the FBI Came for Apple After San Bernardino" [Vice News, 10/3/18].
    • Apple's recent clash with the government was well-covered by news outlets as Cook battled the FBI and refused to help them access information from known terrorists Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik's iPhone after they shot and killed 14 people and severely wounded 22 others [TIME, 3/16/2016].
  • Government Contracts and Partnerships
    • This includes other nation's governments as well. In 2013, Apple received a $159 million contract for the New Zealand Police Department.
    • Before New Zealand, Apple also got the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency to drop their Blackberry contracts for iPhones and other devices made by Apple earning the company over $2 million.While this is a trivial amount of money for a company of Apple's size, but it brings up an interesting question; should a company that sells its products to a government agency try to influence that agency's public policies? Which is just what Cook and Apple do.
    • Apple US DebtApple has its own store for the government to buy its products:
    • Apple owns more U.S. debt than most foreign countries
    • Apples astounding cash hoard of over $285 billion is so big that it could potentially affect government policy if it was to liquidate positions, such as UG government debt. Essentially, Apple is lending billions of dollars to the same government that is responsible for regulating Apple. Ask yourself this: If you loaned someone a few billion dollars, would you expect pretty good treatment from them?
    • Cook sits on The American Technology Council. While Tim Cook heavily disagrees with Trump's immigration policies, he's not stepping down from his position on the council in protest like Tesla's Musk has done. Could this be one of the ways Cook envisions Apple "bringing about change" for society?

Taxes and Apple: Do as I Say, not as I Do.

  • Like all the Big Tech execs, Apple and Cook, like most liberals, believe that government should provide a wide range of benefits to help many sectors of society. But also in common with most liberals, Apple believes that someone else should pay for all this.
  • For years Apple has been scrutinized for its use of offshore tax havens - its main strategy for avoiding taxes on the tens of billions it makes each year.
  • Check out some of these facts from an 'Apple and Tax Avoidance' Fact Sheet at itep.org:
    • Apple has not paid a single cent in U.S. taxes on its $252.3 billion in offshore profits (the highest reported profits of any known Fortune 500 company).
    • While these profits sit in tax havens overseas, Apple shirks paying up to $78.5 billion in U.S. taxes.
  • In 2013, a Senate probe found that Apple had placed billions of dollars in profits with Irish subsidies with no tax residency, meaning Apple paid little to no taxes to any government, foreign or domestic. One of the primary subsidies had reportedly not paid any corporate tax income in over 5 years.
  • But the U.S. is not the only country gunning for Apple's due tax money. In August of 2016, Apple was ordered by the European Union to pay $14.5 billion to Ireland in back taxes.
  • In December of 2017, protesters occupied several Apple stores chanting ‘pay your taxes' in France.
  • Now that Trump has changed the corporate tax rate, Apple is more than willing to bring home the cash it has stored in offshore accounts. In total, Apple is likely to save close to $50 billion in U.S. taxes with this move as the corporate tax rate fell from 35% to 15.5%.

Apple Manipulates Media, Then Becomes the Media

  • Apple's Obsessive Secrecy and Controlled Leaks to the Media
    • Apple is so protective of their product launch information they have been known to pressure journalists into divulging their sources. They have even been reported to go as far as disseminating false information to identify leakers.
    • Hypocritically, Apple also engages in controlled information leaks intentionally to increase hype around a product release and take measure of product viability.Why does this matter? Becuase a company like Apple is very concerned with manipulating the media regarding information about Apple. But what happens when Apple, and other Big Tech companies, are the media? Then they really control the flow of information - both about themselves and others. And Apple has shown a keen ability to manipulate this control for the company's benefit, which is a big reason why it is the most valualble in the world.

Apple to Austin

Technology is creating an economy in which superstar employees work for superstar firms that gather them into superstar cities, leading to a stark geographic concentration of wealth unlike any seen in the past century.-Wall Street Journal

How sickening is it that that Apple, the richest corporation in the world, with $285 billion sitting in its coffers, should extort some money from the city of Austin Texas for the privilege of hosting an Apple expansion?

The latest example of this is Apple announcing this past week a billion-dollar investment in a new campus that could ultimately accommodate up to 15,000 employees in a city already red hot with talent (Austin, Texas). That follows Amazon’s recent choice to put its two new headquarters in existing superstar cities (New York and Washington, D.C.).

  • Apple is in line to receive as much as $25 million in taxpayer-funded grants for the new Austin campus.
  • It also is seeking a 15-year property tax abatement from Williamson County that could worth tens of millions of dollars over the life of the deal, although specific numbers weren’t available.
  • The company has received about $21.6 million of the money so far, including $15.75 million of $21 million pledged from the Texas Enterprise Fund.
  • Apple Inc will build a $1.375 billion data center in Waukee, Iowa, with $207.8 million in incentives approved by the Iowa Economic Development Authority and Waukee city council.

The only good thing that can be said about this is that, as an extortionist, Apple is less lethal than Amazon.