AT&T Holders Cry Foul Over Exec Pay

Raymond McConville
News Analysis
Raymond McConville

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) announced this morning at its shareholders meeting that Edward Whitacre would be stepping down as chairman and chief executive. (See AT&T's Whitacre Cedes Throne.) But that's not all that was on the docket today.

Stockholder Proposal D during today's meeting called for the adoption of a policy that would give the shareholders advisory voting powers in the approval of executive pay. "We believe current rules governing senior executive compensation do not give shareholders sufficient influence over pay practices - nor do they give the Board adequate feedback from the owners of the company," says the shareholder proposal.

Not surprisingly, AT&T's board of directors recommended the rejection of this proposal, which later happened by a vote of 56.2 percent to 43.8 percent.

Whitacre's compensation was cited as Exhibit A in demonstrating how AT&T execs were excessively compensated. Disgruntled shareholders pointed to a study conducted by the Corporate Library that cited AT&T as being one of 11 large corporations where the disconnect between pay and performance is severe.

"The study notes that over the five fiscal years through 2005, CEO Edward Whitacre received $85.2 million in compensation, while total shareholder return was negative 40.3%. The Corporate Library accordingly gave AT&T's Board a 'D' for overall effectiveness," argued the shareholders.

All of this came on the same day it was reported that Whitacre would be receiving a massive $158 million retirement package. The announcement has sparked yet another round of discussions over the huge compensations that executives in corporate America have been receiving as of late.

AT&T could not be reached for comment on this story

— Raymond McConville, Reporter, Light Reading

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