Seven of Canada’s largest pension funds announced that they will oppose the US$11.9 million signing bonus that Barrick Gold Corp. is paying co-chairman John Thornton.
The funds own 3.5 percent of Barrick’s stock or 34.8 million shares, according to Thompson Reuters and the signing bonuses due to Thornton and other executives is coming at a difficult time for Barrick. In addition to the struggling price of gold, construction at Barrick’s Pascua Lama Mine in Peru was suspende (ME, April 10, 2013) and the company took the largest hit to its stock price since 1993, dropping 33 percent in six days.
In a news release made public April 19, Caisse de depot et placement due Quebec said it represents Alberta Investment Management, British Columbia Investment Management Corporation, Caisse de depot et placement due Quebec, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Hermes Equity Ownership Services (Hermes-EOS) Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, and Public Sector Pension Investment Board.
“This amount, for a signing bonus for a co-chairman of the board is, to our knowledge, unprecedented in Canada and is in addition to other compensation for the year for a total package of $17 million in 2012,” said Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec. “This compensation is inconsistent with the governance principle of pay-for-performance and is therefore disproportionate and sets s troubling precedent in Canadian capital markets.”
“Accordingly, the undersigned will vote against both the Advisory Resolution on Executive Compensation and the election of the members of the Compensation Committee at the Barrick Gold Annual General Meeting,” the news release said.
The advisory compensation resolution was scheduled to be voted on at Barrick’s annual meeting April 24.
Meanwhile, proxy advisory firms Glass Lewis and Institutional Shareholders Services advised clients to vote against Barrick’s executive compensation plan.
The seven pension funds announced plan to vote against the entire compensation committee. Thornton received a whopping US$17-million in 2012, and he was not the only beneficiary of Barrick’s largesse. Chairman Peter Munk (US$4.3-million), chief executive Jamie Sokalsky (US$11.4-million) and “ambassador” Brian Mulroney ($2.5-million) all received big pay hikes despite a bad year for the stock price, the Financial Post reported.