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惠普新年遭遇老问题

Eleanor Bloxham 2012年02月14日

又是新的一年,惠普首席执行官也换人了。虽然这家科技巨头看起来有所改变,但它面临的公司治理难题依然没有改变。

    去年的惠普(HP)股东大会上,“薪酬话语权”提案被多数票否决,这样的结果多少让人有些疑惑。根据机构投资者委员会(Council of Institutional Investors)的一项研究,获多数否决票的公司不到1.6%,而且都是些被认为薪酬与业绩严重脱钩的公司。

    同样是去年,惠普的董事任命流程(有4名董事离任,新增5名董事)遭到了批评,原因是这一流程不符合公司公布的董事会政策准则。惠普在提交股东委托书前夕为这个由董事长雷•兰恩牵头的任命流程给出了多种解释,各种说法彼此并不一致。因此,代理投票顾问公司机构股东服务公司(Institutional Shareholder Services,ISS)建议反对一些惠普董事当选。

    又是一年,上周惠普发布了新的股东委托书。但似乎这家科技巨头想要改变的东西越多,一成不变的东西也就越多。

    惠普已连续三年每年都换一任首席执行官(梅格•惠特曼取代了李艾科,之前是李艾科取代了2010年8月离职的马克•赫德)。惠普再一次地向股东提交了新的董事会名单(两名新董事以及包括前首席执行官在内的四名董事离任)。而且,今年的股东委托书和去年犯了同样的毛病:不合理的高管薪酬和董事提名。

    或许惠普的出发点是好的,但具体执行却一败涂地。

天价薪酬,低迷业绩

    为了简单起见,我们暂且不提惠普前任首席执行官李艾科的遣散费。去年,他因表现未达预期而离职,但却获得了2,500万美元的离职费。我们暂且把注意力放在即将发生的情形。惠普已对薪酬政策做了一些调整,详见股东委托书的薪酬讨论和分析章节,希望能让投资者满意。“惠普的薪酬理念是绩效薪酬,这是公司人力资源和薪酬委员会一切薪酬决定的基石,”惠普一位发言人称。

    但如果看看去年3月“薪酬话语权”提案被否决后,惠特曼和兰恩实际上从惠普拿到了多少钱,惠普的这一提案似乎面临再度被否决的命运。

    惠特曼担任惠普董事期间(2011年9月22日被任命为惠普首席执行官之前),惠普股价下跌超过了50%,部分是因为董事会批准的一项战略。成为首席执行官后,9月27日,惠特曼获得了190万股股票期权。根据授予条款,只有在惠普股价(连续20个交易日)比行权价高出20%,才能实施部分期权;高出40%,才能再实施部分期权。听起来像是和绩效挂钩,但事实果真如此吗?

    事实上,无论怎么看,20%和40%都算不上什么高标准。首先,当惠特曼加入惠普董事会时,惠普股价已涨了50%。其次,从2005年8月16日起,到2011年8月底(她担任董事期间)惠普股价突然掉头下跌前,该股收盘价从未低于行权价。第三,在惠特曼获授股票期权前五年,惠普股票的平均收盘价比行权价高出了77%。而且,即便惠普并未公布新战略,2012年2月3日惠普股价已上涨23%。

    这笔期权值多少钱?如果达到40%的要求,这笔期权将价值1,800万美元。如果股价升至五年均值,期权价值则将超过3,400万美元。

    Last proxy season, HP achieved the dubious distinction of receiving a majority no vote from its shareholders on its executive compensation programs. According to a Council of Institutional Investors study, investors bestowed that distinction on less than 1.6% of companies, those deemed to be the worst pay offenders.

    Last year, too, HP's (HPQ) board nominations process (which removed four board members and added five more) came under fire because the process did not conform to stated board policy guidelines. In the run up to the proxy filing, HP provided varying explanations about the process, which had been headed by chair Ray Lane. As a result, proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) recommended against the election of some HP board members.

    It is a new year and HP issued its new proxy last week. But the more things seem to change at the tech giant, the more they stay the same.

    HP sports a different CEO this year for the third year running (Meg Whitman replaced Leo Apotheker who replaced Mark Hurd who left in August 2010). HP, yet again, is proposing a new board slate to shareholders (with two new board members and four, including the former CEO, having exited). And the proxy this year reveals the same shortcomings as it did last year: misguided compensation and board nominations.

    Maybe HP has good intentions, but it's falling down on execution.

Plenty of pay, but where's the performance?

    To keep things simple, let's not even get into the issue of former CEO Leo Apotheker's $25 million exit pay for failure last year. Let's focus on what's to come. HP has made some changes in its compensation policies, which it outlines in the Compensation Discussion and Analysis section of the proxy in hopes this may satisfy investors. "HP has a 'pay-for-performance' philosophy which forms the foundation of all of the HR and Compensation Committee's decisions regarding compensation," an HP spokesperson says.

    But if we look into what Whitman and Lane were actually awarded following the shareholder rebuke last March, HP seems to be itching for a no vote on "say on pay" yet again.

    During Whitman's tenure as an HP board member (before she was appointed CEO on September 22), HP's stock dropped by over 50%, in part related to a board-approved strategy. After becoming CEO, she was awarded stock options on September 27 enabling her to buy 1.9 million shares. Under the terms of her award, the stock price must close at 20% above the exercise price (for 20 consecutive trading days) for a portion of the stock options to vest and 40% above for another portion to vest. That may sound like pay for performance, but is it?

    By almost any measure, it turns out, 20% and 40% aren't high hurdles at all. First, the stock was 50% higher when she joined the board. Second, prior to the stock's abrupt drop at the end of August (on her watch as a board member), the stock price hadn't closed as low as the option's exercise price since August 16, 2005. Third, the average closing price of the stock in the five years preceding the award was 77% higher than the exercise price. And without even announcing a new strategy, the stock price was already up 23% on February 3, 2012.

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