Tag Archives | compensation

The Walt Disney Company (DIS): Proxy Score 79

DisneyThe Walt Disney Company $DIS, which operates as a worldwide entertainment company, is one of the stocks in my portfolio. Their annual meeting is coming up on 3/12/2014. ProxyDemocracy.org had the votes of four funds when I checked and voted on 3/8/2015.  I voted with management 79% of the time and assigned them a proxy score of 79.

View Proxy Statement. Read Warnings below. What follows are my recommendations on how to vote the Walt Disney 2015 proxy in order to enhance corporate governance and long-term value. Continue Reading →

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Apple Inc. (APPL): Proxy Score 83

appleUpdate: ISS recommends its clients vote in support of proxy access, calling the proposed eligibility requirements of my proposal at Apple robust, while safeguarding against abuses in the nominating process. Glass Lewis opposes the proposal because “given the company’s… positive financial performance, we do not believe that adoption of this proposal is necessary at this time.”

So, the tool you’ll need when the company is in trouble, you’re supposed to wait until the company is already in trouble to put that in place, according to Glass Lewis… then you wait again until you can make nominations? That’s like waiting until a building is on fire to install a sprinkling system. Apache is the latest company to support proxy access. That company, which sued retail shareowner John Chevedden rather than allow shareholders to vote to eliminate supermajority requirements, seems to have a better grasp of when proxy access is needed than proxy advisor Glass Lewis.

The C$238.8 billion ($189.4 billion) Toronto-based CPPIB and the $182.2 billion FSBA both plan to vote in support of a shareholder proposal calling for proxy access, enabling shareholders to use corporate proxy materials to nominate up to 25% of the board. CalSTRS ($186 billion) voted for proxy access, using the Glass Lewis voting platform. Continue Reading →

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Say-On-Pay Key Coordination Issues

Say-on-Pay (SOP)A recent paper [Miriam Schwartz-Ziv and Russ Wermers,  Do Small and Large Shareholders Have a Say-on-Pay? (October 15, 2014) available at SSRN] investigates the voting patterns of shareholders on Say-On-Pay and finds that ‘small’ shareholders are more likely than large shareholders to use the non-binding Say-On-Pay vote to govern their companies, are more likely to vote for an annual Say-On-Pay vote, and are more likely to vote “against” Say-On-Pay (i.e., to vote against the pay package). Continue Reading →

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Noteworthy Proposal to Cap Pay Ratio at Microsoft (MSFT)

qube-logomicrosoftA proposal by Qube Investment Management, which owns 10,208 shares of Microsoft ($MSFT), to cap pay has been challenged through the “no-action” process. See incoming correspondence to the SEC. The resolved clause of Qube’s proposal reads as follows:

Resolved: The the Board of Directors and/or the Compensation Committee limit the average individual total compensation of senior management, executives and all other employees the board is chanted with determining Continue Reading →

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Corporate Governance Bites

Continuing challenges to exclusive forum bylaw provisions – Lexology

An increasingly popular trend in recent years has been the adoption by Delaware public companies of an exclusive forum provision in their bylaws. An exclusive forum provision generally provides for the Delaware Court of Chancery to be the exclusive forum for certain disputes (including derivative actions, breach of fiduciary duty claims, claims arising pursuant
to the company’s charter or bylaws and other shareholder litigation) against the company — and prohibiting such suits in other jurisdictions. Expected benefits cited by companies of adopting exclusive forum bylaw provisions include decreased litigation costs, avoiding parallel litigation in multiple jurisdictions and the predictability of Delaware courts. Continue Reading →

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New Pay Comparison Tool From Stanford

Aligning CEO pay with shareowner value is key for many. A new tool (at least new to me), the Compensation and Wealth Calculator, from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Corporate Governance Research Program, allows users to see how the compensation of CEOs and other NEOs, which they have already received over the years in the form of stock and stock options, aligns with share price. Continue Reading →

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Median CEO Pay Up Again: My Apologies

Do I need to apologize? I’ve been using USPX guidelines to vote down pay packages at large companies over the $9 million 2010 median reported by Equilar earlier this year. Now, they’ve revised their pay figures. Final data show median pay for top executives at 200 big companies last year was $10.8 million, up 23% from 2009. (We Knew They Got Raises. But This?, New York Times, 7/2/2011)

The average US worker earned $725 a week in late 2010, up 0.5% (less than inflation) from the year before. I’ve been voting down almost all pay packages where a named executive officer (NEO) earned more than what I thought was the median last year of $9 million. Now it looks like I’ve been too harsh and should have only been voting against those over $10.8 million. I suppose I could say I’m sorry for my vote at those companies where an NEO got more than $9 million but less than $10.8 million. On the other hand, only 1.5% of the companies in the Equilar study had they pay proposals rejected… so, no harm, no foul.

Do we really need to pay them that much? I think our attempt to link pay to performance has resulted in refocusing the corporation. Instead of serving some reasonable public purpose and paying profits to shareowners, many corporations now are moving off shore to avoid paying taxes and are focused on maximizing profits for named executive officers.

Meanwhile, a study from Capgemini and Bank of America Merrill Lynch estimates that financial wealth control by the high net worth individuals jumped 9.7% over the last year to $42.7  trillion. It is hard to see the economy really recovering while the middle class is being hollowed out… although I suppose we could pin our hopes on exports to the growing middle classes of China, India and Brazil.

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InGovern Proxy Analysis Launched in India

A new proxy vote analysis service, InGovern Corporate Governance Platform, allows institutional investors to analyze various companies, follow the agendas of shareholder meetings, exercise votes and collaborate with other investors. Research based on “objective criteria” – Governance Radar – is also embedded into the platform, according to a press release from Bangalore.

This is a part of InGovern’s pioneering efforts at promoting shareholder activism among institutional investors in India.

Global research has shown that there is high correlation between good corporate governance and long term returns on an investment. Shareholder activism is in its infancy in India. The Ministry of Corporate Affairs and SEBI have been prodding institutional investors to exercise their rights as minority shareholders in companies. Investors can hope to get superior investment returns by actively participating in enhancing the corporate governance culture in India.

 

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Transocean: Now, the Rest of the Story

I get hundreds of e-mails every day and often delete before even glancing if I am especially busy. Fortunately, Timothy Smith of Walden Asset Management also sent out an e-mail on a post by Theo Francis, of footnoted*, that had already hit my trash. We’ve all heard about Transocean’s bonuses for “the best year in safety performance in our Company’s history.”

The bonus incident speaks volumes about Transocean and the tone set at the top of the company. But so do two other details in the filings. First, the company’s board created a Health Safety and Environment Committee in August last year, some four months after the spill. Guess how often it met during the four months between then and the end of the year? Once.

Agenda Item 2 in the proxy is even more eye-opening. To hear the company tell it, the provision is an attempt to “discharge the members of the Board of Directors and our executive management from liability for their activities during fiscal year 2010,” explicitly including the rig explosion and oil spill. It would, Transocean says, not only prevent many shareholders from suing directors and officers entirely — whether by taking part in existing lawsuits or future ones — it would give other shareholders a narrow window of just six months to sue.

Those who vote for the measure give up their right to sue altogether, Transocean says. Those who vote against the measure, assuming they fail to stop it, will have just six months to sue, the company says:

“After the expiration of this six-month period, such shareholders will generally no longer have the right to bring, as a plaintiff, claims in shareholder derivative suits against our directors and executive management.”

And there’s more at Transocean’s quiet risk panel & push for immunity | footnoted.com, 4/6/2011. (apologies to Paul Harvey)

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