September 20, 2011

Been a Long Time! The 41st Failed Say-on-Pay (Barely)

With the proxy season long over, it’s been a long time – 9 weeks – since we’ve seen a company fail to garner majority support for its say-on-pay. But as Mark Borges reported last week in his blog, Exar has become the 41st company to do so this year.

In this Form 8-K, Exar reports that it was a close vote with the company receiving more “for” votes compared to “against” – but as Mark notes, the Delaware company counted its “abstentions” as “against” votes back when the company filed its proxy statement (see pg. 4) – thus resulting in the receipt of 49% in support. A list of the Form 8-Ks of the “failed” companies is in’s “Say-on-Pay” Practice Area.

Are Companies Doing Their Say-on-Pay Homework for ’12?

As I prepared to speak on social media to the crowd last week at the Society of Corporate Secretaries’ Western Regional Conference, I took in a say-on-pay panel – and almost dropped to the floor when Janice Hester-Amey of CalSTRS said no one that they had voted against say-on-pay wise had bothered to contact them yet to ask why they had voted negatively. Since CalSTRS voted “no” for 24% of the 3000 US companies in its portfolio, this means that not a single company out of hundreds has bothered to pick up the phone yet.

As I’ve learned from my prep calls ahead of our pair of executive pay conferences, other institutional investors have been getting calls asking “why” – but this still is startling considering how large CalSTRS is. And it begs the question whether companies who held say-on-pay votes this year remember that they will be required by Regulation S-K Item 402(b)(1)(vii) to disclose whether, and if so how, they considered the say-on-pay advisory vote in determining compensation policies and decisions and how that affected their executive compensation decisions and policies. Maybe some companies are just intending to disclose that they didn’t consider the advisory vote in their deliberations? A dangerous prospect if you ask me…

A Careful Orchestration: Two Days of Intensive Say-on-Pay Workshops

I’ve now been in this business quite a long time and I can honestly say that the upcoming pair of say-on-pay conferences will be a career peak for me. I’m proud of the high caliber of panelists that I have procured – and I’m now spending several months carefully orchestrating what topics each panel will cover so that there is minimal overlap. In fact, any overlap is intentional as there are numerous panels that have a distinct perspective.

There is a panel comprised solely of institutional investors; two panels with just ISS and Glass Lewis. There is a great panel with experienced corporate directors. But that’s not all – I have tailored many of the panels so they will drill down on practical topics that you hold dearly, such as “How to Work with ISS & Glass Lewis: Navigating the Say-on-Pay Minefield” and “Failed Say-on-Pay? Lessons Learned from the Front.” Check out the agendas for the conferences and see for yourself.

With the economy going into another funk – and anger over CEO pay likely to hit a fever pitch in an election year – I do believe that next year will bear out that this year was just a “test year” and many companies whose pay sailed through in ’11 could experience real struggles next season. This pair of conferences – focusing on both disclosures and practices – takes place on November 1st-2nd in San Francisco and by video webcast. Register now.

If you are experiencing budget woes but recognize that these conferences are a “must” – drop me a line as always.

– Broc Romanek