Legendary QBE Insurance chief executive Frank O’Halloran must be feeling a little aggrieved. The bloke has delivered sensational returns for his shareholders since the September 11 crisis and yet he still copped a big protest vote against his incentive package at last week’s AGM.
Remarkably, the mainstream media have completely missed the story. Have a gander at the proxy voting results from the AGM and you’ll notice that resolution three attracted an against vote of 25.3%.
The resolution was to give Frank up to 90,000 performance shares and options but it only received 388.1 million votes in favour and a hefty 131.7 million against. Whilst O’Halloran is arguably underpaid with a package worth $5 million last year to run the $27 billion global giant, proxy advisor ISS is believed to have taken issue with the relatively low performance hurdles attached to the issue.
Poor Frank must look at the 93% vote in favour of the Macquarie Bank remuneration report last year and wonder why on earth he’s copped it in the neck. QBE is simply continuing with a long-standing practice, but the irony is that its stellar performance means that Frank would have easily surpassed much tougher hurdles over recent years.
Then again, Frank does have almost 1.3 million QBE shares, rights and options which are today worth $42 million, more than half of which is clear profit.
The two other strongly performing companies which copped similar protests are miners Oxiana and Zinifex, which suffered against votes of 46.8% and 41.2% respectively.
It just goes to show that good financial returns don’t mean you get a green light for sloppy practices or poor disclosure.
Leaving remuneration reports to one side, the four biggest executive pay protests in the past 18 months have been:
Tabcorp: forced to withdraw new incentive package for now sacked CEO Matthew Slatter last November when it faced certain defeat.
AGL: former CEO Greg Martin suffered a 46.8% vote against his incentive package in 2005 because the performance hurdles were too low.
Amcor: forced to amend the options package for new CEO Ken McKenzie before the 2005 AGM after a shareholder revolt.
Tattersall’s: the outrageous retirement package for ousted CEO Duncan Fischer was behind on the proxies last November but then passed in a poll.