Conservative investor Vivek Ramaswamy published a letter to Apple (AAPL) yesterday (Sept. 19) urging the company’s board to hire “based on merit – not race, sex, or politics.” Ramaswamy’s firm, Strive Asset Management, has backing from investors Peter Thiel and Bill Ackman, and recently became an Apple shareholder.
Ramaswamy takes issue with a civil rights audit that Apple agreed to conduct this spring after shareholders voted in favor of a proposal calling on the technology company to analyze “the adverse impact of Apple’s policies and practices on the civil rights of company stakeholders.” The shareholder proposal noted that Apple had committed $100 million to a racial justice initiative following the protests sparked by George Floyd’s death in 2020, but argued it hadn’t shown how it plans to address racial inequity in the workforce, in particular the lack of minority employees on the company’s executive team. Apple recommended investors vote against the proposal.
In his letter, Ramaswamy argues measures such as the audit Apple committed to “embrace and perpetuate identity politics,” and that “externally imposed hiring constraints” could create “severe economic, legal, and reputational risks for Apple.” He noted that Starbucks was recently sued by a conservative think tank over its diversity policies.
Apple has published an annual diversity report since 2014, and in March released new data showing the share of women and underrepresented employees at the company is growing, with Hispanic workers making up 15 percent of Apple’s global workforce and Black workers making up 9 percent, compared to 11 percent and 7 percent in 2014, respectively. It’s not evident that Apple has suffered any clear economic ramifications from commitments to hiring a more diverse workforce. The company became the first firm in the U.S. to hit a $3 trillion market cap last year, and has consistently outperformed other major tech stocks amid this year’s downturn.