Apple’s Antitrust Concerns

Apple announced the first annual meeting of shareholders in 2021 and published its proxy statement, which confirmed its concerns over antitrust actions.

A company’s proxy statement is a document containing information the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires companies to provide to shareholders. Shareholders use the document to make informed decisions at annual or special shareholder meetings.

Apple’s proxy statement details how, for the first time, regulatory pressure and antitrust issues have become a significant risk for Apple, and a concern for its board members as policymakers increasingly scrutinize big tech companies.

Under the “Selected Areas of Audit Committee Oversight” in the proxy report, Apple included antitrust among issues such as business conduct and compliance and taxes.

The Audit Committee and Board regularly review and discuss with management Apple’s antitrust risks. 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. 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,” read the antitrust section.

According to CNBC, Apple’s proxy report from last year only mentioned antitrust once in the context of evaluating new board members, as it does in this proxy report as well. However, the report last year did not say that Apple’s audit committee oversees antitrust concerns.

The Big Tech companies have recently been thrust into the antitrust spotlight with several hearings before Congress and antitrust lawsuits. Currently, both Facebook and Google are subject to antitrust lawsuits.

While Apple is fortunate not to have an active antitrust suit against the company, it has still faced increased scrutiny from the government, as Apple CEO Tim Cook testified before the House Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust Subcommittee earlier this year.

Apple’s antitrust problems relate primarily to its control of the App Store. There are criticisms that the App Store, which is the only way to install apps onto an iPhone, costs too much for app developers and limits competition.

Apple is currently facing a lawsuit from Fortnite creator Epic Games over how Apple utilizes its store. Epic Games made headlines when it publicly came out against Apple over its removal from the App Store. Apple removed Epic after the game company added a new update to its app that allowed it to circumvent the 30 percent cut that Apple takes on in-app purchases and transactions. Currently, Epic is suing Apple over antitrust claims in a U.S. federal court in California.

While Epic’s lawsuit is not as substantial as those filed by the Justice Department against Google and Facebook, the growing use of antitrust lawsuits has rightfully caused Apple to pay closer attention to the issue.

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