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Note: For the Schering-Plough report anticipated in the article below, and a copy of the survey itself, see, September 10, 2009 posting



September 10, 2009

More Executive Pay Surveys: A Comparison

- Broc Romanek,

Following a trend commenced last year by Schering-Plough, industry rivals Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman recently posted shareholder surveys regarding executive pay on their websites. The principal idea behind these surveys is to provide a better avenue than say-on-pay for shareholders to weigh in on compensation (egs. shareholders can provide specific comments and the questions are more narrowly focused).
You may recall that I recently conducted a podcast with Susan Wolf of Schering-Plough regarding how the experience worked out for them this past proxy season. Schering-Plough intends to announce the results of its survey sometime during the next few months. Amgen also canvassed shareholders this past proxy season. We have compiled all these surveys in our "Say-on-Pay" Practice Area.
A Comparison of the Surveys
1. Posting Surveys Online - The two newest surveys are posted online - but Schering-Plough mailed their survey as part of their proxy materials (as noted in this press release). Amgen also posted its survey online. It will be interesting to see whether posting surveys increases - or decreases - shareholder participation. My guess is "increase" - but you never know (for example, note how e-proxy has resulted in a decrease in retail votes).
2. Evaluation of CD&A Transparency - To some degree, all of the surveys piggyback on TIAA-CREF's list of ten questions for evaluating CD&As that was released back in August '07 (in fact, Amgen's survey is identical to TIAA-CREF's survey). All of the surveys ask whether shareholders found their CD&As clear and useful and allow for five types of answers.
3. Tying Pay to Performance - The surveys ask whether shareholders think pay is tied to performance in slightly different ways. Lockheed Martin's survey asks whether its executive pay as disclosed ties pay to performance and is aligned with shareholder value. Northrop Grumman's survey asks whether its compensation play is aligned with the long-term creation of shareholder value. Schering-Plough asks whether its executive pay program is tied to performance and then also drills down with questions about specific performance metrics.
4. Does Pay Matter? - Northrop Grumman asks two interesting questions that the others do not: whether the shareholder analyzed the company's pay policies and practices before becoming a shareholder and whether the company's compensation plan was a material consideration in becoming a shareholder.
5. Retention and Mix of Equity - Schering-Plough was the only company to ask whether shareholders thought that the company's pay plan allows it to attract and retain well-qualified executives, as well as ask questions about the mix of equity in both its executive's and director's pay.
6. Whether Shareholders Support Pay - Both of the newest surveys - Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman - cut to the chase and ask the $64,000 question: whether shareholders support the company's compensation plan as described in the CD&A.
7. Additional Comments - All of the surveys allow for shareholders to submit their own comments, a smart move since the use of multiple choice answers can be limiting. Amgen's survey doesn't even provide an opportunity to select from a multiple choice menu - each question has a text box below it. I think providing multiple choice selections will increase the likelihood of obtaining more responses - as some potential respondents may be daunted by the burden of spending too much time on a survey.



2004-2009, Executive Press, Inc.




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