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The Apple stock suit: What it all means

Marco Tabini | Feb. 21, 2013
Apple is facing yet another lawsuit, but this time it's not over smartphone patents, tablet designs, or any of the other myriad issues that boost billable hours for the company's legal counsel. At stake in this legal dispute is cold, hard cash, and the plaintiff is one of Apple's own shareholders.

For its part, Apple has issued a statement in which it claims that its proposal does not prevent the creation of preferred stock, but simply requires a shareholders' vote to do so. Thus, the change is to the benefit of all common shareholders, who would be directly affected by the existence of preferred stock and who therefore deserve a say in whether the company issues it or not. Implicitly, the company's position seems to also be that the proposal does not need to be unbundled because it pertains to a single action--changing the wording in its charter--and not three different ones.

What it all means for customers

It will be up to U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan to decide who's right on the technical question of whether the proposal meets regulatory requirements--and, ultimately, up to the shareholders themselves as far as the underlying issues are concerned.

Nevertheless, it seems that the financial community is no longer as happy about Apple as it once was. This lawsuit feels like an opening salvo of a battle that could pit activist investors against the company's management and possibly distract Apple's brain trust from its central focus of helping to create the hardware and software that we all love.

Still, there is no need to panic--yet. Just last week at the 2013 Goldman Sachs conference, Tim Cook dismissed the legal action as a "silly slideshow" (adding, however, that Greenlight's proposal is "creative") and reiterated that the company's goal remains, as ever, to make great products. We'll all have to see how that plays out next week, when the stockholders have their say.


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