Almost 40 percent of Glaxo shareholders either abstained or voted against the drugmaker's pay plan at the annual meeting yesterday, a poor showing for Glaxo directors and execs who have repeatedly sought to justify compensation packages.
Investors holding about 29 percent of Glaxo shares chose not to vote on plan yesterday, according to figures released by Glaxo. Of those who voted, about 86 percent supported the plan, while 14 percent were against it. That compares with 92.5 percent who supported the plan last year, when 1 percent of votes were withheld.
Several shareholders attending the meeting spoke out against pay levels of Glaxo executives and directors, according to Bloomberg News. They complained the compensation was "excessive'' and not linked to the performance of the company's stock. "You're hoping to get shares up for the benefit of the directors and their bonuses,'' charged shareholder Robert Muriel, to applause from other investors.
Glaxo chairman Christopher Gent tried to explain that executive and director compensation were linked to Glaxo's performance and long-term compensation was paid only once because of what he called the "derating'' of shares. "Most of the bonuses are linked to total shareholder return,'' Gent told the crowd. "It's nothing to do with improving performance for the benefit of bonuses.''
Some investors questioned the $23.7 billion, two-year share buyback program, saying that fewer shares outstanding artificially inflated earnings per share, enabling Glaxo managers to claim improved performance.
Glaxo raised the salary of former ceo JP Garnier by 11 percent to $6 million in 2007. His compensation package included $1.8 million in salary, $2.7 million in bonus and $1.5 million in other benefits.
Shareholders also protested against retention bonus payments to retain Chris Viehbachker, Glaxo's head of US pharma, who was given about $5 million in stock after he lost the race to succeed Garnier. The shares become payable in two tranches, the first at the end of this year, and the balance in 2011, provided Viehbacher is still at Glaxo, The Financial Times notes.
A leading shareholder, who went unnamed, said it abstained because “the company carried out a convincing consultation process.” Unlike the Shell bonuses, the Glaxo award is linked to performance. In a statement, Glaxo said: "This award was made following extensive consultation with shareholders, who indicated that they were supportive of the proposal.”