Proxy madness!

March 24, 2008

images10.jpegIt may not be quite as exciting as March Madness, but there’s nothing like proxy season to provide insight into a particular company, especially when it comes to the perks that are handed out to top executives. Whether that insight is deep or shallow largely depends on your own personal point of view.

One of the more interesting perks we’ve come across this season is the $149K that Bank of New York (BK) Senior Vice Chairman Steven Elliott received for the “allocation of expenses for time not spent at apartment in New York, which is provided by us for business use” — a new disclosure in this year’s proxy. Because the proxy doesn’t provide many details, the perk is a bit open to interpretation, but it sounds as if Elliott is getting an apartment and being paid not to live there too.

Time Warner (TWX), which filed its preliminary proxy late Friday disclosed lots of new perks for top executives. Former CFO Wayne Pace, who stepped down at the end of December and who has been tied to the Eliot Spitzer mess by various news outlets, received $655K in “transportation related benefits”. That’s 28% more than Pace received for the same benefit in 2006 (and which we footnoted here), even though Time Warner’s stock hasn’t exactly outperformed during that period.

Over at Boeing (BA), CEO W. James McNerney Jr. had one of the more practical perks we’ve seen so far: according to the proxy, the company spent $90K installing a back-up generator at McNerney’s house for business continuity purposes. We’re betting that most companies wouldn’t even consider that sort of thing a perk worth disclosing.

Finally, Orbitz (OWW), which filed its proxy this morning, seems to be sending its top executives to some bargain-basement gym. In the filing, it disclosed spending $650 for gym memberships for several top executives. While the amount was twice as high as what the company spent in 2006, it’s hard to imagine what kind of gym you get for $54 a month. Just to put into perspective, my own New York Sports Club (CLUB) membership here in the burbs is costing me over $70 a month.

It’s obviously impossible for me to get through every proxy, so if you come across another equally odd perk, please contact me and I’ll share it with footnoted readers. I’ll happily send a signed copy of Financial Fineprint for the best entry.

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