For Shareholders, Secrecy Stinks

by Alyce Lomax for The Motley Fool, March 3rd, 2011.

Corporate secrecy sucks. Having access to a wide variety of significant information makes a huge difference when assessing whether a stock’s worth buying, holding, or selling. Unfortunately, many companies haven’t realized that stingier disclosures cast their corporate governance in a lousy light.

Apple’s rotten turn
‘s (Nasdaq: AAPL) secretive behavior may help the company keep its newest high-tech products under wraps, but in many other respects, its furtive ways do its shareholders no favors.

Last week, Apple shareholders voted down a shareholder proposal posed by the Central Laborers’ Pension Fund that asked for a detailed succession plan in the event Steve Jobs can’t return to the helm. Case closed, right? Not so fast.

The New York Times reported that Apple buried the actual vote tallies for the proposal in an SEC filing, noting that major companies such as Ford and Goldman Sachs disclose this information in a less opaque manner.

Perhaps the powers that be at Apple figured that it’s easy to brush off a vote that only gained 30% of shareholders’ support. However, it’s a much bigger deal when you see that votes representing a not-insignificant 172 million Apple shares favored the proposal.

Although burying information in an SEC filing is technically disclosure, it’s not exactly the most transparent way to distribute information to shareholders. (continue reading… )




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