A Gold Star for Amgen__»

When it’s time to make executive compensation decisions, companies seek input from several sources. Those usually include the Compensation committee, the executives themselves, and outside consulting companies that specialize in researching what other executives at the ubiquitous —peer companies earn.

But Comp committees often act as though shareholders — like children born in the 1950s — should be —seen, but not heard. In fact, in most of the SEC filings we read, directors adamantly oppose shareholder —say on pay resolutions.

That’s not the case, however, at Amgen, Inc., (AMGN) the recipient of today’s coveted footnoted gold star.

Amgen’s recent proxy includes an intriguing — and, so far as we can tell, unique — method that invites shareholders to express their thoughts about how the top executives are paid. At the bottom of page 50, here’s what you—ll find:

Obviously this is a cost-effective way of getting input from shareholders, assuming that they read the proxy and then complete the survey.

But we also found it interesting that Amgen — a huge company whose NEOs earned total compensation packages in 2009 that ranged from $4.9 million to $15.3 million — is the company that’s blazing this trail to encourage shareholders to express their opinions.

We called Amgen’s media relations department to ask why the company took this step and how the response has been to date. We haven’t heard back yet; however, if we get an answer, we’ll add it to this post as an update.

But regardless of Amgen’s reasons for including this concept in its proxy, we think that finding new ways for shareholders to communicate with the companies they invest in is a smart practice. Wouldn’t it be great if other companies followed suit?

Special thanks to Amy A. for bringing this gem to our attention.