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Tim Cook: Greenlight shareholder lawsuit is 'silly sideshow'

Tim Cook is not amused by Greenlight Capital's lawsuit over a proxy that would return more money to shareholders, calling the suit a "silly sideshow."

"This is a waste of shareholder money, and it's a distraction and it's not a seminal issue for Apple," Cook said during a Tuesday appearance at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference.

At issue is something known as "Proposal #2," which would update the current rules for issuance of stock. "Currently, Apple's articles of incorporation provide for the issuance of 'blank check' preferred stock by the Board of Directors without shareholder approval," Apple said last week. "If Proposal #2 is adopted, our shareholders would have the right to approve the issuance of preferred stock. As such, Proposal #2 has the support of many of our shareholders."

As noted by the Wall Street Journal, Greenlight Capital sued Apple over the proposal, arguing that putting three proposals into one is an SEC violation. David Einhorn, head of Greenlight, also wants Apple to use "special type of dividend-yielding preferred stock to return cash to shareholders," the Journal said.

Cook said today that Einhorn's proposal is "creative" and that Apple would "thoroughly evaluate" the idea. "We welcome all ideas from all our shareholders, even Greenlight."

Still, Cook said Apple's proposal is "not about whether Apple returns additional cash to shareholders. It's about how much cash to return to shareholders."

Apple has been pondering the option of removing the "blank check" approval since early 2012, Cook continued.

"What that means is not that Apple could not release common shares," he said. "It just says that if Apple decided to do it, we need to go to our common shareholders to get their approval. And so, frankly I find it bizarre that we would find ourselves being sued for doing something that's good for shareholders."

"I think it's a silly sideshow, honestly," Cook continued. "My preference would be that everyone on both sides of the issue would take the money that they're spending on this and donate it to a worthy cause. That would be a lot better use of funds."

As such, Cook said Apple would not be pushing back hard on the issue. "You're not going to see us do a campaign mailing. You're not going to see a 'yes on 2' sign in my front yard," he quipped.

"I support [proposal #2], I'm personally going to vote for it," he said. "I encourage others to vote for it."

The Journal, meanwhile, said Apple will file a formal response to Greenlight's lawsuit this week. The company's shareholder meeting is scheduled for 27 February.