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Fishing on the shareholder’s dime…

If you’re one of the millions of people who enthusiastically awaits the start of each new fishing season, take a look around you the next time you’ve donned the waders and cast a new Elk Wing Caddis across the river. The chances are good that the people standing on either side of you look a lot like you – which is to say, they’re very likely not the executives who are running publicly-traded companies.

As a couple of recently-filed proxies show, there are companies that protect their top executives from having to cast their hooks alongside the hoi polloi. Instead, you will find them in more pristine waters that are off limits to the plebeians who work at their companies, or – for that matter – the rest of us.

Take, for example, Oceaneering International, Inc. (OII), which owns a fishing camp that its executives get to use. In this year’s proxy, president/CEO T. Jay Collins is listed as using the fishing camp, although the company doesn’t explain how much of Collins’s $40,659 in “perquisites and other personal benefits” is attributed to the fishing camp, and how much paid for his other perks (listed as “provision of excess liability insurance;… tax advice and tax return preparation; club membership; sporting event tickets; medical premium and cost reimbursements for supplemental medical insurance plan; and personal use of company-provided automobile”). It’s a small part of Collins’s $5.8 million in total compensation, to be sure, but it raises the question: Couldn’t he rent his own fishing lodge, or at least reimburse the company for his personal use of it?

In prior years, other Oceaneering executives have also enjoyed the fishing camp, as well as the Daybreak fishing barge that the company referred to in an 8-K filed in Dec. 2006 (the company gave Chairman John Huff the right of first refusal to buy the fishing barge, if the company ever decides to sell it. Since no subsequent filings refer to the fishing barge, it seems reasonable to assume that the company still owns it and the executives are still using it). But during 2010, it seems that Collins is the only executive who took advantage of the fishing camp.

Meanwhile, executives at Clayton Williams Energy, Inc. (CWEI) also enjoy the pleasures of the great outdoors on the shareholders’ dime. The company’s proxy, filed March 25, discloses that it paid $116,000 for “Business Entertainment.” By reading the footnotes, you’ll learn that Clayton Williams defines “Business Entertainment” as follows: “Consists of hunting and fishing rights pertaining to land owned by affiliates of Mr. Williams.” Mr. Williams, of course, is Chairman/President/CEO Clayton W. Williams, Jr.; however, the proxy doesn’t explain who the “affiliates” are.

As difficult as it is to understand the logic of the executives and directors who justify these expenses, the record for fishing camps is still held by the A. Schulman (SHLM) company, whose whopper of a fishing tale won Footnoted’s “Worst Footnote of 2008” award. If you didn’t get to read the post at the time, here it is for your reading pleasure.

Image source: KitAy via flickr

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