Apple proxy statement includes section about antitrust risk for the first time

Antitrust scrutiny of Apple and other big tech giants ratcheted up over the past year. And for the first time, Apple has noted in its annual proxy statement that antitrust issues are an area of focus for its board of director’s audit committee.

The company notes “antitrust” as one among several specific areas of oversight for the committee in its 2021 proxy statement, which was released Tuesday ahead of Apple’s (AAPL) annual shareholder meeting on February 23. It says the committee and the board “regularly review and discuss” antitrust risks with Apple’s management.
“Apple’s Antitrust Compliance Officer is responsible for the development, review, and execution of Apple’s Antitrust Compliance Program and regularly reports to the Audit Committee,” the proxy statement reads. “These reports cover, among other matters, the alignment of the program with Apple’s potential antitrust risks, and the effectiveness of the program’s design in detecting and preventing antitrust issues and promoting compliance with laws and Apple policies.”
Apple did not immediately return a request for comment regarding the new antitrust risk references.
It’s the first time such a detailed reference to antitrust risk has appeared in an Apple proxy statement. In each of the two previous years’ statements, “antitrust compliance” is mentioned only once — in reference to experience that is considered in evaluating potential board nominees.
The disclosure comes asregulators, policymakers and smaller tech competitors push to reign in Big Tech’s influence and power.
In July, Apple CEO Tim Cook testified before Congress in a hearing on antitrust concerns, alongside the heads of Facebook (FB), Google (GOOGL) and Amazon (AMZN). In October, the House Judiciary Committee released its findings from a 16-month investigation into the four companies, which concludedthe tech giants hold “monopoly power” in key business segments and have abused their dominance in the marketplace. Apple has denied such claims, saying it does not hold a dominant market share in any of its business segments.
The company also faces antitrust scrutiny in Europe.
Most of the pressure on Apple focuses on the fees and policies it imposes on app developers to make their services available on the App Store, which developers must use to have access to Apple devices.
Apple is currently fighting a lawsuit from Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite, over its app store policies. The iPhone maker has disputed Epic’s allegations, but in November announced it would slash developer fees on the App Store from 30% to 15% if the developer generatedless than $1 million in revenue in the prior year.
Antitrust is listed on the proxy statement along with several other specific risk areas that the audit committee oversees, which also includes privacy and data security.
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