Half a gold star for HPQ…

February 1, 2008

images-7.jpegFootnoted regulars know that we don’t hand out gold stars all that often here. So when we saw the proxy that Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) filed the other day, it seemed pretty promising: there was very detailed information on what top executives receive under various scenarios — President and CEO Mark Hurd would get $91 million following a change in control, a number that is much easier to see than it had been in previous filings. There’s also a nice tax gross-up chart and a chart detailing various perks, which seems to indicate that HP is taking the SEC’s complaints, which were detailed in a WSJ article earlier this week, seriously.

But then they go off and ruin it by putting in some of the tiniest footnotes I’ve ever seen. So beneath that nice gross up chart — which wasn’t in the proxy last year — are three footnotes in a typeface that strains the vision. Sure — you can blow them up on your screen or drag them into a Word document. But given that the proxy is already over 60 pages and that I’m guessing a growing number of people are reading it online, it doesn’t seem too difficult to at least print the footnotes in a modestly larger typeface. So the more detailed information is only worth half a star, in my book, until they make it easier to read.

Speaking of compensation, yesterday, the House Committee on Oversight sent letters to 250 comp committee chairs asking for detailed information about the role of compensation consultants in setting executive pay. This is a follow-up to the hearing and report that took place in early December. It will be interesting to see how many of those 250 comp committee chairs respond by the Feb. 22 deadline.

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