Just over half of Activision Blizzard shareholders backed CEO Bobby Kotick’s $ 155 million salary, following a delayed vote that critics described as an effort to avoid an embarrassing reprimand.
After holding its annual meeting scheduled for June 14, the video game company had adjourned the meeting until Monday to respond to “misleading” information about Kotick’s 2020 salary. The delay drew criticism from the Council of Institutional Investors, which represents the large pension funds.
“With only 54% of the votes cast in favor, the proposal hardly received majority support – it seems Activision has twisted just enough to get the measure passed,” said Michael Varner, director. of executive compensation research at CtW Investment Group.
The company was at risk of receiving little support for paid voting after proxy advisers Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass Lewis recommended investors vote against.
“The extra time requested from shareholders has allowed them to take an in-depth look at the facts about Activision Blizzard’s rigorous pay-for-performance practices,” a spokesperson for the company said in a statement.
The company changed Kotick’s salary after shareholder feedback – his 2019 salary received support from 58% of shareholders. Activision reduced Kotick’s salary by 50% in 2021 to $ 875,000 and limited bonuses for 2021 and 2022.
Most of Kotick’s $ 155 million for 2020 were rewards tied to a 2016 goal of doubling the company’s market capitalization, and its shares soared last year amid the coronavirus pandemic. Strong stock performance generally appeases investors unhappy with outsized executive pay, but Kotick’s sizable rewards have raised concerns.
Activision was under pressure from CtW, who called on other shareholders to reject the compensation of the company’s executives.
Glass Lewis said he knew of no precedent for such a decision to defer a vote on compensation.
Investors typically approve company votes with at least 90 percent support. So far this year, S&P 500 companies have received 88.6% support for executive compensation, according to Semler Brossy, a compensation consultancy.