CLEARWATER — Ever want to tell one of the higher ups what you think about their salary? At Tech Data, now you can.
The company's shareholders approved a measure that lets them weigh in on executive pay, the company announced at its annual meeting Wednesday. Similar "say on pay" resolutions have come up at corporations nationwide, and allow shareholders to voice an advisory opinion on the pay of top executives.
"The door has always been open. This just puts a little more formality about the opportunity to communicate about it," said Robert M. Dutkowsky, chief executive officer of Tech Data Corp.
"Say on pay" measures have been pushed by more than 75 investors with over $1-trillion in assets under management at more than 90 companies, according to Walden Asset Management, a Boston firm. Walden manages about $2-billion and promotes socially responsible investing, and is a proponent of "say on pay."
"We think the advisory vote would really give us an opportunity to provide a check and a balance on executive pay," said Timothy Smith, senior vice president of Walden Asset Management. Although "say on pay" is nonbinding, a negative vote signals shareholder discontent with the direction of the company, Smith said.
Smith said that 2008 "say on pay" measures have won 40 percent of the vote or more. At least eight won majority support, including at Apple Computer, Lexmark and Motorola. Other companies saw similar measures passed last year, including Verizon and Blockbuster. United Health votes today, and Wal-Mart investors vote Friday.
At Tech Data, the move was pushed by CalPERS, the nation's largest public pension fund and a Tech Data investor.
Dutkowsky's salary more than tripled from 2007 to 2008, to $916,154. He also earned a bonus of $1.59-million, nearly three times his 2007 bonus. His 2007 compensation reflects only four months of work.
With stock awards and options, his compensation for 2008 was about $4.1-million, up from $1.49-million in 2007. The Clearwater company has more than 8,000 employees worldwide and revenue of $23.4-billion last year.
It's an issue that touches a chord with investors and the public, Dutkowsky said. "Compensation is emotional."
"Yes, it's a very emotional issue, and there's a lot of attention paid to it," Smith agreed. "But the big investors like CalPERS are probably voting much more dispassionately."
Asjylyn Loder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 225-3117.