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"Pay for Performance" is the Key Phrase in Compensation - NASPP Conference Notes

(The following post originally appeared on ONSecurities, a top Minnesota legal blog founded by Martin Rosenbaum to address securities, governance and compensation issues facing public companies.)

September 23, 2010

I just returned from the Annual Conference of the National Association of Stock Plan Professionals (NASPP) in Chicago, and I came home with a briefcase full of notes and materials on best practices in executive compensation, compensation disclosures and corporate governance. I’ll share thoughts from individual sessions over the next few weeks, but I came away with these general thoughts:

  • “Pay for Performance” was the mantra repeated by many of the speakers. The single most important factor in “getting to yes” in Say-on-Pay votes will be demonstrating the link between pay and performance. This must be done in the Compensation Discussion and Analysis (CD&A) disclosure in the proxy statement.
  • It will be important to craft the summary section of CD&A carefully. The section should summarize the pay for performance link and should highlight best practices explained in more detail elsewhere. In this first proxy season involving mandatory Say-on-Pay, advisory services such as ISS, as well as institutional investors, will be scrambling to sort out the practices of many companies in a short time. Issuers will want to make it easy for investors to determine quickly that the company has sound pay practices.
  • The Dodd-Frank Act will require a “Pay for Performance” proxy statement table. However, the enabling regulations won’t be adopted until April to July 2011, and the table will likely not be in effect until the 2012 proxy statement for most companies. The panelists speculated that the table will be based on a total shareholder return (TSR) measure. They recommended that companies consider whether other measures provide a better method for evaluating their performance relative to compensation (other metrics, peer group comparisons, etc.). If so, consider providing that data in the 2011 proxy statement as a “preemptive strike.”
  • Clawbacks will be tricky for many companies, particularly companies listed on exchanges who will need to adopt a clawback policy next year under expected new rules. Companies that previously adopted clawbacks should highlight this fact in their next proxy statement, as it is considered a best practice by institutional investors. All public companies will have some choices to make about the scope and structure of the clawback policies, as I will cover in an upcoming post.

SEC Publishes Rulemaking Timetable

The SEC recently posted this rulemaking timetable for its regulations under the Dodd-Frank Act. Only the rules for Say-on-Pay (shareholder advisory vote on executive compensation) and Say on Parachutes (shareholder advisory vote on severance in connection with changes in control) are scheduled to be adopted in time for the 2011 proxy season. Those regulations are scheduled to be proposed in October to December 2010 and adopted in January to March 2011.

The ON Securities Cheat Sheet has been updated to include the anticipated proposal dates for other regulations implementing provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act.


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