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A U.S. judge handed outspoken hedge fund manager David Einhorn a victory in his battle with Apple Inc on Friday, blocking the iPhone maker from moving forward with a shareholder vote on a controversial proposal to limit the company's ability to issue preferred stock.
U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan in Manhattan granted a motion by Einhorn's Greenlight Capital for a preliminary injunction stopping a vote on that proposal, scheduled for the company's Feb. 27 stockholders' meeting.
The decision could hand Einhorn more leverage as he pursues his pitch for Apple to issue what he has called the "iPref": preferred stock with a perpetual dividend that he contends would reward investors and help boost the company's share price.
Greenlight sued Apple on Feb. 7 as part of a broader pitch to unlock more of its $137 billion in cash. The hedge fund manager has lobbied Apple to issue preferred stock with a perpetual 4 percent dividend, and on Thursday made a direct appeal to shareholders on a teleconference.
Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook last week dismissed the lawsuit as a "silly sideshow."
The lawsuit itself challenged a measure called Proposal No. 2 that Apple put forward, which would eliminate its power to issue preferred shares without a shareholder vote.
At issue is Apple's "bundling" of that measure with two other unrelated matters into a single proxy proposal.
Greenlight said it supported two of the proposed amendments, but not the one on preferred shares.
In his ruling, Sullivan said Greenlight and another investor who also sued Apple "are likely to succeed on the merits and face irreparable harm if the vote on Proposal No. 2 is permitted to proceed."
"We are disappointed with the court's ruling. Proposal No. 2 is part of our efforts to further enhance corporate governance and serve our shareholders' best interests," Apple spokesman Steve Dowling said. "Unfortunately, due to today's decision, shareholders will not be able to vote on Proposal No. 2 at our annual meeting next week."
A spokesman for Greenlight called the ruling a "significant win for all Apple shareholders and for good corporate governance."
But not all shareholders were happy. California pension fund Calpers, a major