Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Barrick Gold shareholders reject say on pay resolution

Barrick Gold became just the second Canadian company to lose a say on pay vote, as shareholders rejected an executive compensation resolution at the company's annual general meeting in Toronto on Wednesday. 

The rejection was viewed as a condemnation of Barrick’s board of directors, which last year agreed to pay US$17-million to co-chairman John Thornton, including a US$11.9-million signing bonus.

Last week, a group of seven institutional investors put out a press release outlining their concern over the decision to award the bonus payment to Thornton.

 “This amount, for a signing bonus for a co-chairman of the board is, to our knowledge, unprecedented in Canada and is in addition to other compensation for the year for a total package of $17 million in 2012,” the release stated. “This compensation is inconsistent with the governance principle of pay-for-performance and is therefore disproportionate and sets a troubling precedent in Canadian capital markets.”

Signatories to the release included Quebec’s Caisse de depot et placement, the B.C. Investment Management Corporation and the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board.

The compensation vote is non-binding, but Barrick CEO Jamie Sokalsky said that management would “carefully consider” the views of shareholders. The percentage figures for the vote were not provided.

“I think it’s a bit more than symbolic,” Barry Allan, senior mining analyst at Mackie Research Capital told the Financial Post. “It’s certainly a statement about what is appropriate executive compensation as seen by the Canadian marketplace, saying basically [the salary] is not really performance driven which has been an endemic problem, particularly in the gold mining industry.”

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