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Mark’s Metamates and Cook's compensation are both symbols of change

Apple's Tim Cook faces a shareholder showdown next month as Meta's Mark Zuckerberg doubles down on the Metaverse.

Facebook (now Meta Platforms) and Apple are two of the most closely watched stocks in the world. Mark Zuckerberg’s social media behemoth has maintained an iron grip over virtual society since deposing MySpace in 2008. And Apple’s near-fanatical customer loyalty has seen it become the most valuable enterprise in the world, topping $3 trillion at the beginning of the year.

But the two tech titans are now on diverging paths. TikTok is attempting to usurp Zuckerberg’s empire, wresting control of advertising spend with short-form videos that Facebook’s Reels seem unable to compete with. Meta’s share price is down 46% from $382 in September to $208 today, and recently told investors it had lost daily active users for the first time ever.

Meanwhile, Apple’s share price is down only a mere 7% from its all-time high of $182 last month to $169 today. And it was worth $176 a share nine days ago, after reporting a record $123.9 billion full-year revenue in 2021.

Mark Zuckerberg’s Metamates

As Meta Platforms begins to invest heavily in the Metaverse, the CEO has rebranded employees, previously known as Facebookers, to Metamates.

Reality Labs head and incoming CTO Andrew Bosworth has confirmed it refers to the controversial Naval phrase ‘ship, shipmates, self.’ As an American idiom, some believe it a derogatory term for subordinates, while others feel it a term of endearment fostering ‘esprit de corps’ amongst sailors. But the intended interpretation is clear; Metamates are supposed to prioritise themselves last behind other colleagues, as well as the company itself.

And in private chats obtained by the New York Times, one Metamate questioned whether the ‘military inspiration’ made the name made them a ‘cog in the machine.’ Another asked ‘does this mean we are on a sinking ship?’ And a third complained ‘I don’t understand the messaging. We keep changing the name of everything, and it is confusing.’

Meanwhile, former Deputy PM Nick Clegg has been promoted to President for Global Affairs, in charge of all regulatory issues. Brought on in 2018 for his political expertise, Zuckerberg believes ‘we need a senior leader at the level of myself and Sheryl who can lead and represent us for all of our policy issues globally.’ As regulators consider the possibility that Zuckerberg could ‘monopolize the Metaverse,’ Facebook shares continue to be attacked on multiple fronts.

Tim Cook’s compensation

Of course, Apple CEO Tim Cook is no stranger to employee nomenclature— Apple store tech support employees have long been called ‘Geniuses.’ But Cook may be the true genius, as his proposed £73 million ($99 million) payday for last year’s efforts is 1,447 times higher than the annual salary of the average Apple employee.

However, advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) has urged shareholders to vote against the compensation package, arguing that there are ‘significant concerns regarding the design and magnitude of the equity award,’ and that ‘half of the award lacks performance criteria.’

But arguably, Cook’s vision has been a defining factor in the company’s success, with Apple’s share price rocketing since he took over in 2011. At the last Apple shareholder meeting, 95% approved his previous $14.8 million package. And $82.3 million of Cook’s $98.7 million award is in the form of company stock, which has doubled in value compared to pre-pandemic levels.

But public opinion may be changing. General Electric, Starbucks, and IBM have all recently failed to win shareholder votes over top executive pay. And they weren’t alone; a record number of S&P 500 companies failed to attract majority support for CEO pay deals last year, while ‘more than twice as many FTSE 100 companies faced shareholder revolts (in 2021) than in 2020, condemning executive pay-outs when many employees faced added financial hardships in the pandemic.’

Apple’s privacy changes will cost Meta $10 billion this year, and it is also facing employee discontent and regulatory issues. Meanwhile, Apple’s CEO is about to face a shareholder showdown. The days of unrestricted corporate freedom could be over.

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