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What Does a Say-On Pay Vote Look Like?

By | August 18, 2010

Under the Dodd-Frank Act, listed issuers will be required to include a say-on-pay vote for any shareholder meeting occurring on or after January 21, 2011.  A say-on-pay-vote is a nonbinding shareholder vote on an issuer’s executive compensation.  Financial institutions that were recipients of funds under the Troubled Asset Relief Program, also known as TARP, have been required to include say-on-pay votes in their proxy statements.  So there are a number of examples to look at.

 U.S. Bancorp’s 2010 proxy disclosure for its say-on-pay resolution is set forth below.  As you can see, it is well written and advances strong and succinct arguments as to why its compensation package is reasonable.

 The U.S. Bancorp disclosure is as follows:

 PROPOSAL —ADVISORY VOTE ON EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION

 The Board of Directors is committed to excellence in governance and is aware of the significant interest in executive compensation matters by investors and the general public, and in the idea of U.S. public corporations proposing advisory votes on compensation practices for executive officers (commonly referred to as a “say-on-pay” proposal). Our Board has determined that providing shareholders with an advisory vote on executive compensation may produce useful information on investor sentiment with regard to the Compensation and Human Resources Committee’s executive compensation philosophy, policies, and procedures.

 The Company has designed its executive compensation program to attract, motivate, reward and retain the senior management talent required to achieve our corporate objectives and increase shareholder value. We believe that our compensation policies and procedures are centered on a pay-for-performance philosophy and are strongly aligned with the long-term interests of our shareholders. See “Executive Compensation–Compensation Discussion and Analysis.”

 As a result, the Company is presenting this proposal, which gives you as a shareholder the opportunity to endorse or not endorse our executive pay program by voting for or against the following resolution:

 “RESOLVED, that the shareholders approve the compensation of U.S. Bancorp executives, as disclosed in the Compensation Discussion and Analysis, the compensation tables, and the related disclosure contained in the proxy statement.”

 The Board of Directors urges shareholders to endorse the compensation program for our executive officers by voting FOR the above resolution. As discussed in the Compensation Discussion and Analysis contained in this proxy statement, the Compensation and Human Resources Committee of the Board of Directors believes that the executive compensation for 2009 is reasonable and appropriate, is justified by the performance of the Company in an extremely difficult environment and is the result of a carefully considered approach.

 In deciding how to vote on this proposal, the Board urges you to consider the following factors, many of which are more fully discussed in the Compensation Discussion and Analysis:

  •  Our company has been a top performer among its peers by numerous industry measures for many years, and our Compensation and Human Resources Committee has designed the compensation packages for our senior executives to be competitive with the compensation offered by those peers with whom we compete for management talent.
  • Unlike many of our peers, our company was profitable in every quarter of 2009 and 2008.
  • There is no history at this company of the compensation practices evidenced at some large financial institutions that have received so much recent negative publicity.
  •  We recognize the need to fairly compensate and retain a senior management team that has produced some of the best operating results in the financial services industry over the past several years.

 Because your vote is advisory, it will not be binding upon the Board of Directors. However, the Board values shareholders’ opinions and the Compensation and Human Resources Committee will take into account the outcome of the vote when considering future executive compensation arrangements.

 The Board of Directors recommends that you vote FOR approval of U.S. Bancorp’s executive compensation program as described in the Compensation Discussion and Analysis and the compensation tables and otherwise in this proxy statement. Proxies will be voted FOR approval of the proposal unless otherwise specified.

Contact Steve Quinlivan for more information.