David Einhorn cash case against Apple Inc rests on unusual legal tactic

Feb 10 2013, 00:26 IST
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SummaryHedge fund star David Einhorn wants to force Apple Inc to share some of its huge cash reserves with investors, but his lawsuit rests on a U.S. securities rule that has little legal precedent.

lawsuit that will cancel the annual meeting.

"This is a big issue that needs to be thought through carefully and we want the board to come to all shareholders and give a chance to have their voice heard."

ISS, which issues recommendations on how shareholders should vote on proxy proposals, generally believes the "bundling" of proposals was not in the best interest of shareholders, but supported the elimination of "blank check" preferred shares due to their potential to be misused as a takeover defense.

"Though many investors have viewed Apple's cash holdings as excessive and wanted to see more of it returned to shareholders, that view may not be universally held: other investors may prefer to see the cash (or at least a large portion of it) deployed for investments and acquisitions," it said in its Friday statement.

HOW WILL APPLE RESPOND?

It is unclear how Apple will respond in its formal reply to the lawsuits. On Thursday, Apple said Einhorn's lawsuit was misguided and that adoption of Proposal No. 2 would not preclude preferred share issuances in future.

"Currently, Apple's articles of incorporation provide for the issuance of 'blank check' preferred stock by the Board of Directors without shareholder approval," Apple said. "If Proposal #2 is adopted, our shareholders would have the right to approve the issuance of preferred stock."

Einhorn, a well-known short-seller and Apple gadget fan, said in an interview with CNBC the company harbored a "Depression-era" mentality that led it to hoard cash and invest only in the safest, lowest-yielding securities.

Apple nearly went broke in the 1990s before Steve Jobs returned and engineered a sensational turnaround, with products such as the iPhone and iPad that became must-haves for consumers around the world. The company's near-death experience has led Apple to be exceptionally conservative with its cash.

Greenlight in its complaint said it supports two of the proposals, but not getting rid of preferred stock. Einhorn deems preferred stock superior to dividends or share buybacks and has separately put forward a proposal for an issuance of Apple preferred stock with a perpetual 4 percent dividend.

But as Apple's proxy proposal is structured, Greenlight said, shareholders have "no choice but to either vote in favor of an amendment they oppose, or against an amendment they support."

Few lawsuits have ever been filed challenging proposals under the rules, a situation some legal experts attributed to the normally passive nature of shareholders.

"In most cases you're not going to get a

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