Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook, who said he’s in “very, very active” talks about what to do with the company’s growing cash pile, did little to assuage investors seeking more clarity on his plans.

Apple shares slipped as Cook ended the company’s annual shareholder meeting without giving any additional insight on what he’ll do with the company’s $137.1 billion in cash and investments. Shareholders re-elected Apple’s board, approved Ernst & Young LLP as accountant and passed a non-binding measure on executive compensation.

Cook is under growing pressure to use increased dividends, stock buybacks or a new class of preferred shares to compensate investors after Apple shares have lost more than a third since peaking in September. The calls grew louder amid signs of slowing sales and profit growth and increasingly acute competition from Samsung Electronics Co. and Google Inc.

Cook said he and other executives are “focused on the long term” and aren’t happy with the falling stock price.

After taking over as CEO in 2011 from co-founder Steve Jobs, Cook has proved more sensitive to shareholders’ concerns than his predecessor. While Jobs long dismissed investors’ cash demands, Cook reinstated the company’s quarterly dividend and unveiled a $10 billion stock buyback program last year.

Apple’s shares fell less than 1 percent to $445.35 at 1:29 p.m. in New York. Through yesterday, the shares had dropped 36 percent from a record in September.

Proxy Proposal

Investors defeated another measure, offered by a shareholder, that required executives to hold more company stock, to ensure that their interests are better aligned with those of investors. Apple had said its existing structure, which includes salary, bonus and shares that vest over time, is enough to keep management focused on performance over the long haul.

Apple isn’t required to follow through on the “advisory vote” on executive compensation.

A proposal that would have required Apple to get shareholder approval before issuing a new class of preferred shares was scrapped before the meeting. Greenlight Capital Inc. founder David Einhorn, who advocates a bigger payout, sued Apple as part of a push to get the company to create a new class of dividend-paying preferred stock. A judge sided with Einhorn in a ruling last week.

Apple should follow the example of International Business Machines Corp., which has consistently returned more than 100 percent of its free cash flow to investors each year, primarily through stock buybacks, said Toni Sacconaghi, an analyst with Sanford Bernstein & Co.

Value Investors

Sacconaghi said Apple can return 50 percent to 70 percent of its free cash flow to shareholders each year, to attract “value investors” who are concerned about the company’s slowing growth.

Cook has defended Apple’s policies, saying that it’s handling cash responsibly to invest in operations, while acknowledging the company has money to spare. The board is exploring different options, including boosting dividends and buybacks and issuing preferred shares.

Cook said Apple is working on “new categories” for products.

“We don’t have our head stuck in the sand,” Cook said. “We’re in this for the long term.”

At the shareholder meeting, investors voted to re-elect the company’s slate of directors. It includes Cook; Chairman Art Levinson; former Avon Products Inc. CEO Andrea Jung; former U.S. Vice President Al Gore; J. Crew Group Inc. CEO Mickey Drexler; former Intuit Inc. CEO Bill Campbell; former Northrop Grumman Corp. CEO Ron Sugar; and Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger.