The time-honoured practice of dropping bad news when no-one is looking was on display again last Friday as several companies slipped out embarrassing information on the eve of the AFL grand final.
Media companies, more than any other, understand the news cycle and who can forget 2007 when Fairfax, PBL and Seven all released their annual reports revealing big executive pay packets on grand final eve.
While you can, check out the flow of ASX announcements on Friday. Here are few highlights:
5.47pm, Fortescue Metals: whoops, Twiggy lost his chief financial officer as all those cheap Chinese loans remain to be bedded down.
5.29pm, Seven Network: annual report released with pathetically inadequate disclosure of executive pay. As if David Leckie really only got $629,291.
4.51pm, Babcock & Brown Infrastructure: annual report with more fee gouging in possibly the last Babcock-branded report ever to be released.
4.15pm, Babcock & Brown Power: annual financial report with more fee gouging.
3pm, Woolworths: annual report showing pay of CEO Michael Luscombe leapt from $6.9 million to a record $8.3 million. Usual poor disclosure of 12,000-strong pokies empire continued.
11.59am, Toll Holdings: annual report with more excessive pay packets after the scandals of recent years. CEO Paul Little is even coming back for another whack of options despite three successive major protests against the remuneration report.
10.07am, Wesfarmers: annual report with salary package of CEO Richard Goyder leaping from $5.1 million to $8.1 million. Stand by for another Wesfarmers remuneration report to be defeated this year and how coincidental that the grocery duopolists dropped their pay details on the same day.
9.38am, Consolidated Media Holdings: notice of meeting for AGM showing 6 directors up for election, including Ryan Stokes, Ashok Jacob and Chris Corrigan. Should be a doozy on October 28 at Crown.
9.37am, Crown: annual report showing big pay packets despite $1.4 billion in write-downs. CEO Rowen Craigie pocketed $6.2 million, down from $6.9 million previously whilst John Alexander collected $2 million versus the extraordinary $19 million in 2007-08.
9.20am, Suncorp: annual review with more excessive payouts for poor performance and a belated admission that the bank suffered a run after Lehman Brothers collapsed last September.
9am, Computershare: notice of meeting for November 11 AGM reveals it is one of the first companies seeking pre-approval of termination benefits for executives given legislative changes that are currently in the Senate. How appropriate of the share registry company to blaze the trail.
8.27am, Macquarie Media: annual report with more appalling governance under Millionaire Factory’s external manager model.
This sudden deluge of excessive executive pay information is timely given the media discussion over the weekend coming out of the G20 and Wednesday’s release of the Productivity Commission’s draft report into executive pay.
Professor Allan Fels and his two colleagues will be fronting a press conference in Parliament House at 11am to explain the nuts and bolts of what is proposed.
Stand by for better disclosure of pay details plus the possibility of the remuneration committee chairman facing automatic re-election at the next AGM after a sizable protest.
Prof Fels is attending a corporate governance and executive pay lecture the author is giving at Canberra University on Wednesday night. All are welcome and details are here.