United Continental’s trip to the Friday night dump

December 17, 2012

Here at footnoted, we’re always fascinated by the things that companies take to the Friday night dump — that magical window on a Friday night after the market closes, but the SEC remains open. It’s no coincidence that the number of 8Ks filed during those 90 minutes is significantly higher than any other 90 minute period during the rest of the week, as we noted in this WSJ article last month.

But this short and sweet 8-K that United Continental (UAL) filed late Friday seemed particularly interesting, given the fact that on Saturday, the Air Line Pilots Association announced that the pilots at both United and Continental approved a joint collective bargaining agreement. According to the union’s press release, 67% of pilots approved the agreement, with over 97% of the 10,193 eligible pilots voting. This WSJ piece has some of the details: the new 4-year deal provides hefty signing bonuses followed by an 8.5% raise in Jan. 2014 and three subsequent annual raises of 3%.

That seems like a good deal until you compare it to the even better deal that the airline’s Chief Revenue Officer and newly named Vice Chairman James E. Compton got, according to the 8-K that was filed at 5:28:47 — a little more than a minute before the SEC’s electronic window closed for the night. As the filing notes, the company’s board raised Compton’s salary to to $875,000. But the filing is silent on how much of a raise that is. To get that, you have to flip to the proxy filed last April, which shows that Compton’s base salary in 2011 was $750K, which represents a 16.7% raise effective immediately. Compare that to the pilots who will have to wait another year before their 8.5% raise kicks in.

Granted, Compton did add a title — that of Vice Chairman — a job that all the way back in this 2005 piece for Slate, I described as the “greatest job in business” because the job of Vice Chairman carries an impressive sounding title and a hefty salary to boot, but is often largely ceremonial.

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It’s that time of year again: time to help us select the worst footnote of 2012. Just to remind you, last year’s “winner” was Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), which rewarded its disastrous former CEO  Léo Apotheker with lavish going-away gifts. The stock has fallen 43% since HPQ won the top prize last year. We’re busy assembling our entries for 2012 and have some good candidates so far. But there’s always a chance we’re forgetting one or two, so if you have a good candidate for our worst footnote list, please post it in the comments or send it to [email protected]

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