Apple Reaches $2 Trillion, Punctuating Big Tech’s Grip

In the company’s most recent earnings call, Mr. Cook said, “We do not have a zero-sum approach to prosperity.” He added, “We are focused on growing the pie, making sure our success isn’t just our success and that everything we make, build or do is geared toward creating opportunities for others.”

Apple declined further comment.

Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and Alphabet, which owns Google and YouTube, have also continued raking in billions of dollars amid the pandemic. Their outsize influence has attracted intense scrutiny over the past year, including a bipartisan grilling of four of the companies’ chief executives in Congress last month.

Representative David Cicilline, Democrat of Rhode Island and chairman of the House subcommittee that is investigating how the tech giants are brandishing their power, warned at the hearing that the companies had grown too powerful.

“Their ability to dictate terms, call the shots, upend entire sectors and inspire fear represent the powers of a private government,” he said. “As hard as it is to believe, it is possible that our economy will emerge from this crisis even more concentrated and consolidated than before.”

Last week, Apple’s power over its App Store was in the spotlight when it booted the popular game Fortnite from its store. Epic Games, which makes Fortnite, then sued Apple in federal court, accusing the company of violating antitrust laws by forcing developers to use its payment systems.

Apple has also wielded another powerful tool to boost its valuation and enrich its investors and executives: stock buybacks. Since the company’s value hit $1 trillion, it has returned $175.6 billion to shareholders, including $141 billion in stock buybacks. Apple has repurchased more than $360 billion of its own shares since 2012, by far the most of any company, and has announced plans to spend at least tens of billions of dollars more on Apple stock.

Apple has increased its buybacks since it used the Trump administration’s 2017 tax law to bring back most of the $252 billion it had once held abroad. (The law saved it $43 billion in taxes on the move, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a research group in Washington.) Apple has $194 billion in cash and bonds.

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