AUSWR
The Association of U S West Retirees
 

 

 

Protesters target Qwest meeting
By Andy Vuong, Staff Writer
Denver Post
Wednesday, May 23, 2007

About 150 Qwest shareholders and at least one chicken are expected to flock to the company's annual shareholder meeting today at the Grand Hyatt in downtown Denver.

As many as two dozen Qwest/US West retirees plan to rally with the chicken -- actually shareholder-advocate Scott Adams dressed in a chicken suit -- before the meeting to protest the company's executive compensation.  They believe it to be excessive, citing chief executive Dick Notebaert's 2006 total compensation of $22.7 million, which includes salary, bonuses, stock option awards and perks.

"We want the compensation committee, which is comprised of members of the board of directors, to give compensation that is in line with performance," said Adams, who works on pension policy for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and is coming from Oakland, Calif., for the meeting.

Analysts credit Notebaert with leading a turnaround of a company that was on the verge of bankruptcy when he took over in June 2002. Denver-based Qwest has posted five straight quarterly profits and its stock is trading at five-year highs, closing Tuesday at $10, down a penny.

Nonetheless, Adams and retirees will be holding signs such as "Qwest Don't Be a Chicken - Give Shareholders a Say on Pay" in support of a proposal that would give shareholders an annual advisory vote on executive compensation.  Though the vote would be nonbinding, it would give shareholders an avenue to express their opinion about executive pay.

In addition to the so-called "say on pay" proposal, shareholders are pushing three other initiatives.  Those proposals request the company:

-  Adopt a policy where at least 75 percent of future equity compensation (stock options and restricted stock) awarded to all senior executives shall be based on performance.

-  Seek shareholder approval on supplemental executive retirement plans.

-  Separate the roles of chief executive and chairman of the board.  Currently, Notebaert holds both titles.

The company's management has urged its shareholders to vote against all four shareholder proposals.

Qwest's management has three proposals this year. They are seeking:

-  The re-election of the company's 12 directors.

-  The ratification of the company's selection of KPMG as its independent auditor for 2007.

-  The approval of the company's existing equity incentive plan, which is required every 10 years.

Qwest provides local phone service in 14 states and operates a nationwide fiber-optic communications network.

Staff writer Andy Vuong can be reached at 303-954-1209 or avuong@denverpost.com.

http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_5962153