Shareholder meetings are often boring affairs, but not always. Sometimes they’re receptacles for white-hot anger from investors upset about a falling stock price, an overpaid CEO or other perceived injustices.Here are some of the annual meetings that shareholder activists and advisory firms say they are watching most closely this year.
For shareholder activists, Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon is everything they love to hate. McClendon, the chief exec for 23 years, has been richly rewarded even as the company’s stock has shed two-thirds of its value in four years.
In 2008, a year when the stock plummeted from about $39 to $16, Chesapeake paid McClendon $12 million for his personal collection of antique maps. (A shareholder lawsuit is now forcing him to buy them back.) That same year, Chesapeake paid $3.5 million to sponsor the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder, of which McClendon owned almost 20 per cent.
Thursday, under pressure from shareholders, Chesapeake agreed to end a program that allowed McClendon to take personal stakes in company wells. At the end of 2008, the company gave McClendon $75 million to use toward those purchases.
McClendon’s salary was $975,000 in 2011, and he received perks that included $500,000 worth of personal use of private jets.
The company’s annual meeting will be at its Oklahoma City headquarters June 8. Chesapeake faces four shareholder proposals, including one about lobbying disclosures that the company tried to keep off the ballot.
Another drilling company, Nabors, faces a proposal that would require it to get shareholder approval if it wanted to give senior executives severance packages over a certain size. Nabors tried to knock that proposal off the ballot but didn’t get permission from the SEC.
It also faces a proposal that would make it easier for shareholders to get their own nominees for the board onto the ballot.
Severance pay has been a hot issue for Nabors. Eugene Isenberg, who was CEO for 24 years until he stepped down under pressure in October, was in line for a $100 million severance payment until the company announced a few months later that he would waive it.
In a statement at the time, Isenberg said he had planned to give the money to charity. He still got a $1.3 million salary and a $15.6 million bonus for the year, a period when the company’s stock lost more than a quarter of its value.
The new CEO, who was the company’s president and chief operating officer for 20 years, told investors in March that in previous years, Nabors had missed growth opportunities, bought back its stock at the wrong time and made other mistakes.
The shareholder meeting will be in Nabors’ headquarters city of Hamilton, Bermuda, on June 5. Isenberg remains chairman of the board through that meeting.
Abbott faces seven shareholder proposals, including one requesting more disclosure in its lobbying and another asking that executives be required to hold their company stock for a longer period of time. The company sought to block both from the ballot, but regulators denied the request.
Abbott’s stock price has risen steadily since last summer, but lawsuits and regulatory investigations are looming. Among them: State attorneys general accuse Abbott of reporting incorrect prices on certain drugs to Medicare and Medicaid, according to the company’s most recent annual report. The Federal Trade Commission accuses an Abbott subsidiary of filing sham patent lawsuits, and the Department of Justice is examining whether Abbott marketed an epilepsy drug for unauthorised uses.
The shareholder meeting will be Friday at Abbott’s headquarters outside Chicago.
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