Shareholder revolts over executive compensation

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Canadian executives saw their salaries grow much slower this year than last year. They may put part of the blame on cranky shareholders. Not much has changed in the two years after some of the biggest companies in Canada agreed to let their shareholders have a Say on Pay compensation packages for CEOs. But the so-called "protest vote" among investors is growing and one company has just felt the shareholders' sting.


Part Three of The Current

Shareholder revolts over executive compensation - Laura O'Neill

We started this segment with a clip of U.S. president Barack Obama in December 2009. His anger over the size of executive bonuses - especially to bankers who'd received bailout money - was palpable. That year, the U.S. implemented a say-on-pay voting system. It gave shareholders the right to vote on executive compensation.

Canadian investors were introduced to Say on Pay voting a year later in 2010. Last week, QLT Inc. became the first Canadian company to lose a pay vote after 58 per cent of its shareholders voted against its compensation package. The advisory group Shareholder Association for Research and Education - or SHARE - tracks Say on Pay votes in Canada. Laura O'Neill is SHARE's policy director and she joins me from Vancouver.

Shareholder revolts over executive compensation - Christopher Chen

Once a public company decides to offer Say on Pay votes, its directors need to start thinking about how to sell their compensation packages to their investors. Christopher Chen is the head of executive compensation for Canada for the Hay Group and he joined us in our Toronto studio.

Shareholder revolts over executive compensation - Gary Hawton

On the one hand, it's startling investors are wielding this kind of power. On the other, since companies rely on shareholder's cash, it's amazing it's taken so long. For a long time, my next guest has wanted just this kind of influence. Gary Hawton is President of Meritas SRI Funds and he was in our Montreal studio.

This segment was produced by The Current's Kathleen Goldhar.

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