The road to perksville…

December 15, 2006

road.jpegSo Dec. 15 is finally here and any SEC filings geek worth their salt knows what that means: big-time changes when it comes to disclosure of compensation and perks. Among the biggest changes is lowering the perks bar from $50,000 down to $10,000 for top executives and requiring companies to start including a “total compensation” figure. Of course, the changes don’t actually kick in today, but rather, impacts any company whose fiscal year ends after Dec. 15.

Yet, already, we’re starting to see companies respond to some of the changes. For example, late last week, Lockheed Martin (LMT) disclosed in this 8-K that it would stop paying for a wide variety of perks beginning Jan. 1. Among those on the chopping block are country club initiation and membership fees, Town Cars for local transportation, and tickets to various sporting and entertainment events. The company will also stop paying for tax preparation and financial planning services for top executives. In exchange, the company gave modest raises to its top executives to cover the lost perks.

It’s still too early to say how other companies will react to the additional disclosure. But clearly companies are worried that the $10,000 threshold will lead to all sorts of embarrassing stories of CEO excess.

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We’re going to try a little experiment here today: I found something in my routine trawl of the filings that I’ve decided to password protect. To access the post, you will first need to make a $50 donation to footnoted.org and I will send you the password. Because this type of information is best when it is limited, this will only be available to the first 20 people who contact me on Friday. Please put “password” in the subject line.

And now a word about why I’m doing this, since I’m a big advocate of full disclosure. As I mentioned when I spoke at the Hearst New Media Program at Columbia last month, digging through the filings is taking more of my time. While there have been several generous donations and many smaller ones, they have all gone toward upgrading and maintaining the site. I know that there’s a fair number of institutional investors (and those who service them) who read footnoted.org regularly and this experiment is designed for them, although individual investors are welcome to participate. Depending on how well this works, I will either start doing this on a somewhat regular basis (letting the filings dictate the frequency) or will begin exploring other options to monetize some of footnoted.org’s unique and highly-respected content. If you have any suggestions or comments on this, please post them below or contact me directly.

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