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Talkin' Baseball, Joe Mauer and Proxy Statements: Hypothetical Disclosures of Compensation Risk and Qualifications

(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.)

March 29, 2010

In the spring, a securities law blogger’s fancy turns to thoughts of . . . proxy season. And baseball season. Wouldn’t it be great to combine the two?

Earlier this spring, the Minnesota Twins made news headlines by signing All-Star catcher and 2009 American League MVP Joe Mauer to a new 8-year, $184 million contract extension. As Joe Christensen of the StarTribune put it, “Relax, Twins Fans: Joltin’ Joe Stays”.

But what if Mauer were an executive at a public company? Based on new rules adopted by the SEC, as summarized in the ON Securities Cheat Sheet (PDF), after dealing with Mauer’s agent, the Twins (and their securities lawyers) would now have to deal with several newly required disclosures in the proxy statement for the team’s annual shareholders’ meeting. One new item requires public companies to discuss the risk aspects of their compensation policies and practices for employees, if these risks are reasonably likely to have a material adverse effect on the company. Speculating on how the Twins might approach such a discussion, the proxy statement might include the following:

[Hypothetical] Disclosure of Compensation-Related Risk. The compensation committee of the Minnesota Twins Baseball Club (herein the “company”) regularly conducts a risk assessment of the company’s compensation policies and practices for its executive officers and other employees. The committee’s assessment for the current year focused in large part on the company’s recent amendment to its employment agreement with Chief Offensive Officer and Chief Defensive Officer (COO/CDO), Joseph P. Mauer. The committee has determined that Mr. Mauer’s new compensation package, which guarantees him cash payments totaling $184 million through the 2018 Major League Baseball season, is reasonably likely to create a material risk for the company. The long-term and guaranteed nature of Mr. Mauer’s compensation eliminates meaningful performance-related compensation incentives that generally apply to whose contracts are incentive laden or for shorter terms. However, the committee believes that risks resulting from elimination of monetary incentives are substantially offset by Mr. Mauer’s highly competitive personality and desire to bring a World Series Championship to his home state of Minnesota. There is also a risk that Mr. Mauer’s high levels of annual compensation will hinder the Twins’ ability to employ the talent at other positions necessary to compile a winning team in the future. However, the committee believes it has appropriately balanced the risks arising from amending Mr. Mauer’s contract against the risk of recurring decreases in annual revenue from ticket sales that might have resulted had the company failed to do so.

And elsewhere in our hypothetical proxy statement, you might read the following:

[Hypothetical] Disclosure of Director Qualifications. The following is a narrative disclosure regarding the experience, qualifications, attributes or skills which, in light of the company’s business and structure, led the company’s board of directors to conclude that the company’s COO/CDO, Joseph P. Mauer, should serve on the board of the company, i.e., should be maintained in a leadership position. Such experience, qualifications, attributes and skills can appropriately be summarized as follows: ‘HE’S JOE MAUER.’

Let the proxy season begin. And Play Ball!

Thanks to my Maslon partner and Twins fan and securities lawyer extraordinaire, Alan Gilbert, for his assistance in drafting the above disclosures.


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