Barrick to revamp executives’ pay after shareholder backlash – by Lisa Wright (Toronto Star – April 29, 2015)

The Toronto Star has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

John Thornton told the company’s annual shareholder meeting that 75% of the votes were cast against compensation scheme.

Embattled Barrick Gold Corp. chairman John Thornton has promised to overhaul the miner’s controversial executive compensation system that hiked his pay by 35 per cent to $12.9 million (U.S.).

But at the annual meeting Tuesday, where shareholders voted overwhelmingly against executive salary increases, Thornton didn’t offer to hand any of it back, underscoring that he is personally tied to the future fortunes of the company since he bought half of his 1.4 million Barrick shares “with my own money.”

“We have heard you loud and clear,” he said, after early returns suggested 75 per cent of shareholders did not support the pay packages.

“We take that feedback and we will go back and reform our system – and specifically how it relates to me,” Thornton assured the investor audience at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

The pay vote is non-binding, but such vocal opposition is known to send a strong message to companies about investor dissatisfaction.

The firm already overhauled its compensation system after investor outrage over Thornton’s $11.9 million signing bonus in 2013, when he was first hired to co-chair the board with Barrick founder Peter Munk.

“When you have strong, charismatic leaders, you see recurrent executive pay problems,” said Gary Hewitt, director of corporate governance research at Toronto-based Sustainalytics.

“Given the level of dissent, it (the review) is the right first step. But if they’ve been spanked twice, do they really learn their lesson?” he added.

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