Shareholder Forum for Options Policies

Forum Home Page

Options Policies Home Page

Program Reference


Note:  C. William Jones and Cornish F. Hitchcock, respectively the president of the retiree association referred to in the article below and  the attorney representing the association in relation to its shareholder proposal, are members of the Forum's Advisory Panel.

For additional information about the Forum's project relating to proposed U.S. adaptations of advisory voting on executive compensation policies, see

Advisory Voting


Fortune (The Browser), April 27, 2007 article



Those crazy Verizon (VZ) retirees are at it again. For the tenth year running, a group calling itself the Association of BellTel Retirees is agitating for change in management practices at the nation’s second-largest phone company, with two proposals on the Verizon proxy. One measure, a so-called “say on pay” proposal, calls for shareholders to get an advisory vote on executive compensation. The other measure seeks to limit the number of outside corporate boards Verizon board members can serve on.

Make no mistake: This isn’t some random group of, um, retiring, oldsters. The BellTel Retirees, formed more than a decade ago to protect the pensions and benefits of ex-NYNEX, GTE and Bell Atlantic employees (those were the companies that merged to form the current Verizon), won 59% of the shareholder vote on a ballot proposal in 2003, and the group says it has affected change at the company in other ways. Association president C. William Jones says, for example, the group in 2005 proposed a measure to reign in what’s known as Supplemental Executive Retirement Plan income - a honeypot for exiting senior leadership; Verizon preemtively agreed to reduced payouts under the retirement plan.

The retirees’ activism makes sense. Many are longtime shareholders in the company going back to their days of active employment. (The BellTel group also owns shares in Verizon, giving it the right to propose measures on the proxy.) Says Jones: “We think a healthy Verizon is good for all of us.”

Retirees are keenly interested in making sure the company has the financial strength to make good on promises to retirees: “We earned the benefits, we were promised our benefits, and we expect to get them,” he says. “When we see the benefits beginning to melt away and our pensions being eaten by inflation, and we see the officers making multimillion-dollar salaries and millions of dollars in short-term incentives, well, it just doesn’t ring true to us.” A few years ago, Verizon, like many other companies, restructured its retirement plans. The move didn’t affect existing retirees, but other telecom companies have instituted changes that changed the game on retirees or their spouses.

And so when Verizon shareholders gather in Pittsburgh next week for the company’s annual meeting, Jones’ group will be there to speak on behalf of more changes in executive pay and board structure. Could be an uphill battle, though.  “Say on pay” proposals haven’t had much success this year.



© 2007 Cable News Network LP, LLLP. A Time Warner Company



This Forum program is open, free of charge, to all shareholders of the invited corporate participants, and to any fiduciaries or professionals concerned with the investment decisions of those shareholders, according to the posted Conditions of Participation.  The Forum's purpose is to provide shareholders with access to information and a free exchange of views on issues relating to their investment interests described in the Forum Summary As stated in the Conditions, all Forum participants are expected to make independent use of information obtained through the Forum, subject to the privacy rights of other participants.  It is a Forum rule that participants will not be identified or quoted without their explicit permission.

This Forum program has been organized with the support of Hermes Equity Ownership Services, Ltd.  It is the first in an expected series that will be managed by a not-for-profit “Institute” to be established for the purpose of continuing the Forum programs conducted by Gary Lutin.

Inquiries and requests to be included in the Forum's distribution list may be addressed to  The information provided to Forum participants is intended for their private reference, and permission has not been granted for the republishing of any copyrighted material.

All material on this web site is published by Gary Lutin, who is responsible for conducting the Forum.