All agree that BHP Billiton boss Andrew Mackenzie’s response to the Samarco dam disaster just over a year ago was close to flawless. He was on the first flight to Brazil, spent days on the ground meeting staff, inspecting the damage and briefing the media, and he’s made sure to return to see the recovery operation himself.
It was textbook disaster management — a stark contrast to the blundering performance of the then Neil Balnaves-led Ardent Leisure in the days after the Dreamworld tragedy.
But what hasn’t emerged until now is the action the humble Scotsman took to make sure he personally felt a financial penalty for Samarco. In the weeks before the Carolyn Hewson-chaired BHP remuneration committee was due to consider his 2016 pay, Mackenzie quietly approached Hewson and requested he get no bonus.
The unusual act — almost a John Calvin approach to executive pay — is confirmed in the fine print of the BHP remuneration report. Hewson notes in her report that the remuneration committee exercised its discretion to approve a zero outcome for Mackenzie.
But then she notes: “This outcome accorded with an indication the CEO had previously provided to the committee that he thought a zero STI outcome for FY2016 would be an appropriate alignment of his short-term remuneration outcome for FY2016 with the shareholder experience and the interests of the company’s other stakeholders.’’
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