Who turned on the lights?

February 23, 2007

images-15.jpegNow that we’re in the thick of filing season, we’re starting to see lots of new disclosures that presumably nobody — not the executives, the board, the accountants or the attorneys — felt needed to see the light of day before. Some of this is due to the new rules on perks, specifically, the lower threshold for disclosure. But that’s only part of the story.

Take Honeywell (HON), for example, which I’ve repeatedly footnoted for its openness at disclosing perks in an easy to understand fashion. (UPDATE 3/8: Please see comments for response from Honeywell). That praise appears to be a bit premature. When Honeywell filed its 10-K last week, there was this interesting exhibit about the $124K the company is spending to provide Chairman and CEO David Cote with $10 million in life insurance. What’s interesting is that a quick skim of the 2006 proxy — the 2007 one hasn’t been filed yet — under “all other compensation” shows Cote’s life insurance costing the company nothing. Now, granted, given Honeywell’s size, $124K is the equivalent of pocket change. But it shows how all sorts of things are seeing the light of day for the first time.

This is also happening at smaller companies too. In the proxy that Unitil (UTL) filed yesterday, investors suddenly learned that’s it’s been paying for country club dues and a car allowance for Chairman and CEO Robert Schoenberger, though the company doesn’t disclose exact numbers for either perk.

That’s just two examples. There are plenty more. If you come across others as you plough through the Ks and proxies, send me a note. I’ll send a signed copy of Financial Fineprint to the person who sends in the best one.

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