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SEC denies Apple’s bid to stop shareholders questioning its use of AI

The Securities and Exchange Commission has rejected requests by both Apple and Disney to exclude AI from discussions at their forthcoming annual shareholders meetings, saying the subject “transcends ordinary business matters.”

Ahead of the shareholders meetings that Apple, Disney and major corporations are required to hold annually, there is always a series of proposals for what will be discussed there — and Apple applies to the SEC for permission to refuse any it doesn’t want to answer. Previously, that’s included topics such as employee non-disclosure agreements, which the SEC concluded Apple must allow discussion about.

According to Reuters, AFL-CIO, the American labor union federation, filed a request with both Disney and Apple to report on AI. Specifically, the group’s pension fund staff asked for a report on the use of AI “in [Apple’s] business operations and disclose any ethical guidelines that the company has adopted regarding the company’s use of AI technology.”

For Apple, the AFL-CIO also wrote that “AI systems should not be trained on copyrighted works, or the voices, likenesses and performances of professional performers, without transparency, consent and compensation to creators and rights holders.” Brandon Rees, deputy director of the AFL-CIO’s office of investment, told Reuters that Apple and Disney “haven’t even begun to grapple with these ethical issues.”

Apple and Disney separately applied to the SEC, arguing that the proposal should be excluded from the shareholder voting ballets because they concern “ordinary business operations.”

The SEC has now replied to both companies, denying the motion. “In our view, the Proposal transcends ordinary business matters and does not seek to micromanage the Company,” the agency wrote.

It’s routine for corporations to ask the SEC for permission to skip shareholder proposals, and previously the agency has typically granted around half of such requests.

The date for Apple’s 2024 shareholders meeting has not yet been announced, but it generally takes place in March.

SEC denies Apple’s bid to stop shareholders questioning its use of AI

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