Analyst downgrades Apple for being immoral

Ronnie Moas says he can't sleep at night when he thinks about the 'obscene' behavior of the company. He's also fed up with Amazon and Philip Morris.

By MSN Money Partner Jan 7, 2014 4:11PM
The Apple Inc. logo is displayed on the back of the new MacBook Pro David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesBy Michael Kitchen, MarketWatch

Was it a "Jerry Maguire" moment of moral clarity or just a grumpy blowup at some easy corporate targets?

Standpoint Research founder and research director Ronnie Moas issued a note Monday cutting his rating on Apple (AAPL) to "sell" and advising investors to also sell (AMZN) and Philip Morris International Inc. (PM) for purely moral and ethical reasons.

"For Apple Computers to pay their (overseas) workers $2 an hour while they have $150 billion in the bank is nothing short of obscene. I've heard all of the arguments in their defense, and they make no sense to me," Moas wrote in a research note out Monday.

Moas, a former strategist at Herzog Heine Geduld and an Israeli army veteran, acknowledged that the note would be controversial and could threaten his business but said: "I am so upset that I can no longer remain silent."

Moas criticized Amazon for pressuring its employees while founder Jeff Bezos spends time "on his yacht in the Galapagos Islands" and enjoys a net worth of $27 billion. Philip Morris, meanwhile, "has the black lungs and blood of 500 million people on their hands," he said. 

Moas already had a "sell" rating on Amazon and had no previous rating on Philip Morris shares, according to a CNBC report on the note.

The text included a good number of emphatic comments -- "There are dozens (if not hundreds) of companies I would like to put on my Blacklist but I will start and end it with these three," for example.

Moas also delved into his personal life in explaining why he decided to speak out against the firms: "I took a Lunesta sleeping pill a few hours ago as I have been nearly every night for the last five years. . . . It helps keep me looking young and more productive in the afternoon and evening. . . . On this night, nothing could have put me to sleep."

He also said watching the recently released Martin Scorsese film "The Wolf of Wall Street" helped reinforce his views on "the obscene excess and relative comfort enjoyed by the top 1%-2% . . . many of whom are greedy and selfish."

Moas clearly feels strongly about what he sees as the shortcomings of corporate culture, not merely issuing the research note but also appearing Monday on CNBC and, according to the note, booking an appearance on Bloomberg Television  for next week.

Do you agree with Moas?

More from MarketWatch

Jan 7, 2014 5:19PM
Yes, I agree wholeheartedly. Let me put it another way. Because many corporations/companies pay their workers minimum wage, the government has to step up and pay for food stamps and other expenses to help these people get by with the bare minimum. In other words, WE are paying to subsidize these big corporations to pay their workers a living wage.
Jan 7, 2014 5:11PM
I actually agree with Him on these issues. The head of the company has 27 Billion dollars while low paid employees who do the hard work are asked to sacrifice. This income gap i  this country is a pathetic result of GREED. It's one thing to make a lot of money, but for one Man or Woman to make tens of thousands more money in a year than the backbone of the Company is to Me Obscene. 
Jan 7, 2014 5:12PM

Ah, people: they're not getting "2 dollars and hour", 

They're getting the equivalent of 2 dollars an hour. These people live on site, eat on site, sleep on site.

It's the equivalent to the "company store and housing" we abandoned in the past.

Moas' right,

Jan 7, 2014 5:25PM

Apple has been Immoral for a long time! Which is why I shall never Purchase one of the products as their philosophy is one of MONEY MONEY MONEY for a handful and Screw the Rest!


And their products cost many their job! Sure they may be convenient but still took away many jobs.

Jan 7, 2014 8:56PM
I take offense to Moas and everyone else criticizing the top 1%. It is not the 1% but the top 1/10 of the 1%. I have worked all my life, lived very conservatively, and now going into retirement have close to 5M. This puts me in the 1%. My life style is nothing like that of Bezos, Gates, Cook, etc. and never can or will be. I know we are better off than most, but after working 50 years (40 years with my wife as a partner) in a small business, 60-70 hours a week, we don't think we have anything to apologize for.
Jan 7, 2014 5:14PM
Jan 7, 2014 7:39PM
As much as I lean to agree with the idea that those who take the risk should reap the rewards, I agree with Moas due to the growing disparity between the wealthy and those outside that 1-2%. Jeff Bezzo has every right to enjoy the wealth he holds, but the company should be  pressured to act in a manner that increases in benefit to all involved, not simply the shareholders. I am not in any way promoting handouts or freebies, however, these are the industry leaders we are talking about. They should be leading by example and setting a benchmark for increasing the quality of life for those who are dedicating their careers or a portion of there careers to the maintenance and growth of these companies. Instead, these companies are following a business strategy that serves the top of the ladder and never quite moves the dial for the rest of the shoulders it rests on. I believe that these companies should be thanked for the jobs they have created, but now it's time to break ground on true innovation; foster the growth and quality of life of all those shoulders while simultaneously growing and maintaining business. 
Jan 7, 2014 10:53PM
Couldn't agree more!  I work in corporate America and am repulsed by the continual greed in the name of the "stockholders".  Believe me, none of the corporations I work with care one bit about people in the least.  Corporate social gestures are nothing more than PR stunts.  It's all about the $$$$$.
Jan 7, 2014 5:12PM
someone on wall street calling someone else immoral and unethical?? isn't that the pot calling the kettle black???
Jan 7, 2014 6:41PM
Apple doesn't pay these workers... they contract a manufacturer to produce product FOR them. Apple (just like any other company in the world does) goes where the best deals are. When are the American people going to learn.... You want everything to be cheap or reasonably priced. How do you do that? By finding labor forces and companies willing to make your product at a price that American consumers will pay.  Everyone complains that all of these people make so little money. Well ok, lets pay them minimum wage and see what happens to the cost of your products.  I am not saying that it is ok to exploit workers. What I am saying is stop saying how immoral it is and then continue to purchase. THERE IS NO FREE LUNCH.  You can not have cheap electronics or any other product for that matter and high wages.
Jan 7, 2014 6:47PM
This guy's onto something that the rest of us have known for years.

The only difference is that he has a "megaphone" that the rest of us don't ...

Hopefully, he has enough in the bank from playing in the Wall St. game up to this point that he can afford to stick his neck out ...

Since it will cost him in terms of clients/readership  ...

Better late than never to come to grips with reality.

Jan 7, 2014 4:48PM


 you thought the pay rate was the same for overseas  workers?




No, not completely.  Business has done this for a looooong time.  Why not speak up sooner if it bothers you that much?


Then taking Lunesta is one of the worst things for a clear mind.  Did you know that you can have hallucinations taking it?

If this is immoral, then go all the way.  What about Big Pharma with all their false drug claims.

I could go on and on.  I just want to say not to target a few only.

Jan 7, 2014 7:36PM

i can see big tobacco in an ethics sell-stance, but where does one draw the line?


capitalism is brutal by nature, so we always need government  oversight and regulation to keep it reasonably moral.


i think it's fair to accuse many large corporations of exploiting workers, both here and off-shore.


wal-mart encouraged in-store food drives so their own store associates (aka hourly workers) might have a reasonably decent thanksgiving dinner this year.


i have a friend who worked 32 years straight for a major grocery chain and was put out of work due to company re-structuring 2 weeks before christmas this year. what kind of behavior is that?


companies no longer worry about offering their people pensions.


with the ppa in effect, the next thing to go is workplace provided health insurance, a long-standing tradition of american employment. now the worker can buy insurance on the exchange, so they don't need an employer's group plan to gain coverage.


i can see nothing about the american economy, as it effects an average worker, that's gotten any better over the past 35 years.


it used to be we'd hear about a company president worth millions and gasp in awe. now we have company presidents worth, as you mentioned, 27 billion dollars. the list goes on and on; multi billionaires leading the most extravagant lifestyle while legions of their people are stuck at the bottom of the employment ladder.


and i'd argue it's not about more higher education, it's about less and less opportunity, less and less possibility for company advancement ,and ever-declining wages.

Jan 7, 2014 6:00PM
"Moas criticized Amazon for pressuring its employees while founder Jeff Bezos spends time "on his yacht in the Galapagos Islands" and enjoys a net worth of $27 billion."

Anyone that starts a company in their garage and emerges with net worth of $27 billion SHOULD be on his yacht. What does "Pressuring its employees" even mean? That they actually make them work for their paychecks? Pretty vague to be criticizing the company as a whole. Come back with more specifics if you want to be taken seriously. And even then, find a worthy target, like health care CEOs that deny coverage to sick children.
Jan 7, 2014 11:31PM
This article is short on information and long on emotions. It is based on agendas and not wholeheartedly factual like most articles here. Chinese labor agreed to work cheaply. We not only enslave them at Apple, but Walmart, and basically most any company who sells consumer goods, including groceries. Cheap labor is to blame, plus Free Trade deals. Apple has just taken advantage of what our Country has given them. We let China import at 1/10th the tariff rates they charge us. Does that compute in your math 101? Making money and screwing the public comes in many forms. Banks, politicians, oil companies,  big pharma, etc. have been practicing, lobbying, and getting their way for decades. We are the laughingstock for letting them bend us over. This article is not for public information, but, for making us believe the Chinese are good people who need more money, and we, the consumer, need to pay Apple more for a phone. I don't want or need an Apple phone, or feel bad for poor Chinese workers. By the way, the Chinese have a law that reads" if it isn't produced in China, you won't buy it in China". Why don't we have a law like that? Then we wonder where the jobs went. I guess America likes it in the rear.
Jan 7, 2014 7:01PM
This kind of stuff stems from kicking the unions out of the workplace.  The unions were primarily started to prevent this and to give the workers more money.  True, the union leaders themselves became greedy and lost their way, and now we pay for it.  As union membership declined over the last couple of decades so has the median wage, wages in general, the number of good paying jobs and job security.
Jan 7, 2014 7:24PM
Should have started with 3 bank stocks
Jan 7, 2014 5:42PM
"There is a price to pay for a life of greed". ~ LOE

Jan 7, 2014 5:31PM
still unaware the function of money in society...  this is how the US will end.  for "moral" reasons.
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