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Risky Business - Evaluating the Risk Components of Compensation

(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 22, 2009

Last week, the Twin Cities Chapter of the National Association of Stock Plan Professionals hosted a presentation on hot topics in executive compensation, led by Tara Tays and Rive Rutke of Deloitte Tax. I have included their PowerPoint under the Resources section of this blog, and in a future post I will discuss some of the compensation trends they reported.

One of the hot topics covered by the presenters was compensation risk analysis. They presented a very high-level summary of steps a company should consider - see pages 12 and 13 of the PowerPoint. Financial institutions receiving TARP funds are already required to do this analysis; for other types of companies, they may not yet have initiated a formal risk analysis process, monitored at the Compensation Committee level.

As I discussed previously, if the SEC adopts its proposed amendments to the proxy rules, each public company will be required to disclose in its proxy statement how its overall compensation policies for employees (including compensation of non-executives) create incentives that can affect the company's risk level, and its management of risk. The disclosure is required if the compensation policies create risks that may have a "material adverse effect" on the company.

    Comment: The bottom line is that the proxy rule amendments requiring this risk disclosure may be effective in the upcoming proxy season. Public companies should start thinking about the analysis that must be completed by then, in order to be able to make a well-founded statement in the proxy statement. The recommended steps in Deloitte's flow charts will not apply to all companies, but at least they provide a benchmark for companies that have already started the process, or a starting point for those that have not. 


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