May 7, 2008

“Say on Pay”: Five Notables

With Aflac’s annual meeting results now in, “say on pay” is in the news. Here are five items to consider:

1. Aflac’s Pay Package Gets 93% Support – As noted in this NY Times article, Aflac’s meeting on Monday was uneventful with the company’s executive pay package getting overwhelming support.

2. RiskMetrics’ Aflac Report – ISS kindly has given us permission to post its analysis of Aflac’s “say on proposal.” It is interesting comparing that to the PIRC report that I posted last week.

3. Shareholders Not Supporting “Say on Pay” As Much This Year – As noted in this Washington Post article, the level of support for “say on pay” proposals is down this year compared to last year (bearing in mind that last year’s levels were remarkable for a “first year” type of proposal). So far, only proposals at Apple and Lexmark have garnered majority support.

Compare the Washington Post’s conclusions with those of ISS from this article. Here is an excerpt: “This year, pay vote proposals have averaged 42.1 percent support at 21 companies so far. That is in line with results for calendar 2007, when 52 such proposals received 42.5 percent average support. Surprisingly, however, the measure received less support at a number of financial companies this season, including Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Wachovia and Merrill Lynch, where many observers expected the measure would fare better than last year given investor anger over subprime-related losses.”

As noted in the ISS piece, I’m also hearing that levels of support for proposals generally are down. I’m not sure of the reason, although some claim it’s partly due to the lower level of retail holders voting under e-proxy (I’m not sure I buy that given that relatively few companies are doing e-proxy).

4. Two More Companies Agree to “Say on Pay” – Littlefield and MBIA have joined the group of companies that have agreed to allow their shareholders to vote on executive pay, bringing the total number to seven. MBIA’s vote will occur in 2009 and Littlefield’s vote is in a few weeks, where its shareholders will vote on two management resolutions that ask shareholders whether the total compensation received by the CEO, president, and directors in 2007 “is within 20 percent of an acceptable amount,” according to its proxy statement. Hat tip to this ISS article for uncovering these two!

5. RiskMetrics’ Own “Say on Pay” Proposals – A few weeks ago, RiskMetrics Group filed its first proxy statement and it includes three separate resolutions for shareholder approval, which may become the model for future “say on pay” proposals. These three proposals are: (1) the company’s overall executive compensation philosophy; (2) whether the board executed these principles appropriately in making its 2007 compensation decisions; and (3) the board’s application of its compensation philosophy and policies to the company’s 2008 performance objectives.

Canada Revises Its Executive Compensation Proposals

Recently, the Canadian Securities Adminstrators re-published their executive compensation disclosure proposals. The original proposals were made a year ago – and interestingly, many Canadian companies have already voluntarily changed their disclosures to match the proposals. Here is a memo explaining how the proposals have changed.

The PCAOB Speaks: Latest Developments and Interpretations

We have posted the transcript from our recent webcast: “The PCAOB Speaks: Latest Developments and Interpretations.”

– Broc Romanek