The silly season for perks…

April 21, 2008

Here at footnoted, we’re all about better disclosure. But as with most of the other good things in life, there are certain times when there is simply too much of a good thing. Take the proxy statement filed by CVB Financial (CVBF) last week. In a footnote to the “all other compensation”, the bank disclosed that each of its five named executive officers (NEOs) received a $150 gift card and that the bank spent $350 so that the wife of CEO Christopher Myers could attend a banking conference with him.

Now even with all of the problems that smaller banks are facing these days (see this story in today’s WSJ for example), few people would make the argument that it’s the $150 gift card (or even the $350 for the banking conference) that’s going to push this bank over the edge. Not to mention the fact that the SEC rules are pretty clear on when a perk needs to be disclosed and needless to say, a $150 gift card doesn’t make the cut.

So why would CVB go through the trouble to track this and spell this out in a footnote? Are they trying to show that they’re more honest than everyone else? After all, the proxy they filed last year doesn’t get quite that granular (though it does show that the bank spent a lot more money on Myers country club membership in 2006 than in 2007).

My best guess is that it had something to do with a string of comment letters the bank received nearly three years ago. Maybe the thinking is that it’s better to disclose absolutely everything than risk having to answer lots of questions later on.

Still, just as there’s a silly season going on right now in politics, there’s an equally silly season going on with perks. Spare us all the details of the $150 gift certificate and give us meaningful disclosure instead.

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