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How Much Is Fair : The Compensation Committee
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of human resources at the exchange reported that Mr Grasso believed that there would be a strong reaction to the magnitude of his retirement package The report also quoted Mr Grasso telling a director of his concerns that a subsequent board might reconsider his pension benefitsc Mr Spitzer brought legal action against Mr Grasso and a former director of the NYSE, Kenneth Langone Mr Spitzer seeks over $100 million in reimbursement from Mr Grasso, and $18 million (the amount of Grasso compensation that Spitzer alleges was hidden from other directors) from Langone, who was the former head of the compensation committee The fight has been nasty and very public, with Grasso threatening to counter sue for $50 million Others are taking cover Mercer Human Resources Consulting, the firm that advised the board on Grasso s compensation, has agreed to return the $13 million it was paid for their work hoping to put the issue behind themd Whether Grasso wins or loses in court will be important to his overall wealth, but what is clear is that he has already lost in the court of public opinion and given up his position as an American icon
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Donaldson, William, Statement by the Chairperson: Letter to NYSE Regarding NYSE Executive Compensation, US Securities and Exchange Commission, Washington, DC (2 September, 2003) b Landon Jr, Thomas, and Jenny Anderson, Report Details Huge Pay Deal Grasso Set Up, New York Times, 3 February 005, A1 c Ibid d Crawford, Krysten, Spitzer seeks $100 million from Grasso, CNNMoney, 24 May 2004 http://moneycnncom/2004/05/24/markets/spitzer_grasso (6 April 2005)
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UNSPOKEN COST: STOCK OPTIONS
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There has been much recent debate regarding accounting for stock options This esoteric debate is deeply relevant to compensation committees At this time, the cost of options is not truly reflected in the financial results of most companies The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) has issued new guidance to better reflect the cost of options; but under political pressure, Congress may prevent the new rules from taking effect Congress has responded with The Stock Option Accounting Reform Act, which is anything but option accounting reform The bill is the result of intense lobbying by those companies that wish to keep the true cost of executive option programs from impacting financial results The Chairman and President of the FASB, Robert Denham, is on record saying, Advancing this bill in the legislative process harms the credibility of
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America s system for providing transparent and unbiased financial information to investors 6 If Congress allows special interests to override objective accounting judgment based on due process, then the continuing improvement of our financial reporting process will cease and may even regress Congress s approach not only flies in the face of the FASB, but also international accounting standards Those directors serving on compensation committees need to be aware that the cost of options may not be reflected in the financial results of the company If not, directors should ensure that the cost of these instruments is continually calculated and reported by independent consultants so that sound judgments can be made on facts rather than wishful results This analysis will also be useful in understanding the potential impact of options already issued if the FASB s recommendation is eventually implemented
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PIECEWORK: TRANSACTION COMPENSATION
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Some companies, particularly serial acquirers, compensate top management for the completion of a deal If your company is a target, additional compensation may be appropriate to align management (who will be out of a job) and shareholder interests, but it is rarely appropriate for the surviving company s management Compensating executives on finding a target and closing a deal only guarantees that a target will be found and acquired There is no incentive to find the best fit, to spend the time and effort to ensure it is properly integrated, and that the return from the acquisition is the best use of stockholder funds As an example, a report by Tyco s outside counsel claims that the company reported a profit of $794 million on the purchase of a small company called Flag Telecom Based on this outcome, Tyco paid its top managers $24 million in bonuses, most of which went to its CEO, Dennis Kozlowski The report reveals that management kept the board in the dark about the bonuses for many months When the board s compensation committee eventually did give its approval, it had no knowledge of the sharp decline that had since occurred in Flag s stock The report concludes that the acquisition actually resulted in a $26 million economic loss by the time the deal
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