Director Compensation Update

I’ve written a number of articles and blogs about some sticky issues that can surface in the context of setting pay for public company non-employee directors (here, here, here, and here).

On March 6th the parties to the In re Investors Bancorp, Inc. Stockholder Litigation, filed a settlement agreement with the Delaware Chancery Court.  By way of background, the Investors Bancorp decision limited the shareholder ratification defense for non-employee director equity awards that were granted on a discretionary basis. The equity plan at issue in In re Investors Bancorp, which had been approved by the company’s shareholders, provided that the maximum number of shares that could be delivered to all non-employee directors, in the aggregate, would be capped at 30% of all option or restricted stock unit or restricted stock awards available for grant under the plan.  Read More ›

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Certain Information Statements for ISOs and ESPPs Due by January 31, 2019

As reported in Part 4 of our 2018 End of Year Plan Sponsor “To Do” List, Section 6039 of the Code requires employers to provide a written information statement to each employee or former employee and file information returns with the IRS regarding: (1) the transfer of stock pursuant to the exercise of an Incentive Stock Option (“ISO”); and (2) the first transfer by the employee or former employee of stock purchased at a discount under an Employee Stock Purchase Plan (“ESPP”).  For ISO exercises and ESPP transfers occurring in 2018, the Section 6039 employee information statement requirement is satisfied by providing Form 3921 (for ISOs) and Form 3922 (for ESPPs) to employees no later than January 31, 2019Read More ›

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New IRS Guidance Throws a Pass to Certain Universities That Pay Coaches Compensation in Excess of $1,000,000

In Notice 2019-09 (“Notice”), the IRS provides relief from the new excise tax to certain colleges and universities that pay their “covered employees” more than $1 million per year or pay excess parachute payments.  Specifically, the Notice provides that the new excise tax under Code Section 4960 does not apply to a governmental entity (including a state college or university) that is not tax-exempt under Code Section 501(a) and does not exclude income under Code Section 115(l).  Therefore, those state universities that do not rely on either of these statutory exemptions from income are not subject to Code Section 4960 even if they pay their coaches (or other covered employees) more than $1 million.   Read More ›

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The 162(m) Transition Rule Guidance Has Arrived

On August 21, 2018, the IRS released Notice 2018-68 providing its initial guidance on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (Act) transition rule for changes under 162(m).  Before the Act, 162(m) limited a public company’s tax deduction to $1,000,000 for annual compensation paid to its “covered employees” (i.e., the CEO and the other three most highly compensated executives (excluding the CFO)).  Important pre-Act limitations/exceptions to this rule included (i) a more narrow definition of covered employee, and (ii) an exclusion for performance-based compensation.

The Act substantially broadened the definition of covered employee and eliminated the performance-based compensation exception. However, the Act offered a transition rule for compensation paid under a written binding contract that was in effect on November 2, 2017 and that is not materially modified after that date. Read More ›

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Settlement of Solak v. Barrett May Provide Additional Guidance on Setting Director Pay

I’ve stressed how important it is for public company executives and directors to stay apprised of developments in the director pay area, including developments/settlements of director pay lawsuits.  Earlier this summer, the Delaware Chancery court approved a settlement of Solak v. Barrett, a case in which the plaintiffs alleged that the directors of Clovis Oncology breached their fiduciary duties by adopting a compensation plan that overcompensated themselves, in relation to companies of comparable market capitalization and size. In their complaint, the plaintiffs cited as evidence, the fact that the non-employee directors of Clovis each had been paid an average of $429,163 annually between 2012 and 2016, while Fortune 50 companies pay their directors a median total of $281,667 a year and S&P 500 companies pay an average $277,237 a year.  Read More ›

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Yet Another Reason to Focus on Director Pay

We have previously encouraged our readers to focus on the size of their director pay packages and the processes their boards undertake in setting director compensation.  Prior focus on these issues was recommended largely as a way to mitigate the risk of litigation for excessive pay.  In their current U.S. Compensation Policies FAQ, Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (“ISS”) has given boards yet another reason to focus on director compensation. In the FAQ, ISS indicates the following:

  • In evaluating non-employee director pay, ISS will look for “reasonable practices” that “adequately align the interests of directors to those of shareholders.”
  • A director pay program should incorporate “meaningful” stock ownership and/or holding requirements.
Read More ›
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Short-Term Deferral Day is Right Around the Corner

Section 409A, the provision of the Internal Revenue Code that regulates the time and form of payment of nonqualified deferred compensation, contains a helpful exception for “short-term deferrals.”  Specifically, Section 409A provides that a payment will not be considered nonqualified deferred compensation if the employer makes the payment on or prior to the 15th day of the third month following the end of the employee’s (or, if later, the employer’s) taxable year in which the employee’s right to the payment vests.  For individuals and for employers with calendar fiscal years, the key date for purposes of the short-term deferral exception is March 15th (a little less than two weeks from today). Read More ›

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Certain Information Statements for ISOs and ESPPs Due by January 31, 2018

As reported in Part 3 of our 2016 End of Year Plan Sponsor “To Do” List, Section 6039 of the Code requires employers to provide a written information statement to each employee or former employee and file information returns with the IRS regarding: (1) the transfer of stock pursuant to the exercise of an Incentive Stock Option (“ISO”); and (2) the first transfer by the employee or former employee of stock purchased at a discount under an Employee Stock Purchase Plan (“ESPP”).  For ISO exercises and ESPP transfers occurring in 2017, the Section 6039 employee information statement requirement is satisfied by providing Form 3921 (for ISOs) and Form 3922 (for ESPPs) to employees no later than January 31, 2018 Read More ›

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Making a List, Checking it Twice – 2017

It’s that time of year when boys and girls start making their lists for the holidays, but we in the employee benefits world make a very different kind of list.  In the rapidly changing world of employee benefits and executive compensation law, checklists can be particularly helpful to make sure important issues do not fall through the cracks.  Each year we publish health and welfare, cost-of-living, executive compensation, and qualified retirement plan checklists to help individuals stay apprised of changes in the law, changes that they might need to make to their employee benefits plans, and various notice requirements.  We just published the last of our annual checklists.  Read More ›

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Say on Pay Failure Results 2017

Of the 7% of Russell 3000 companies that received “against” vote recommendations from ISS on their say on pay proposals this 2017 proxy season, some of the cited reasons for the negative vote recommendations from ISS consisted of the following:

  • Pay for failure (i.e., pay for performance disconnect).
  • Lack of rigorous performance goals.
  • A substantial portion of granted equity awards were not performance-based.
  • Presence of an ISS “problematic pay practice” including:
    • Abnormally large bonus payments without proper link to performance.
    • Change in control payments exceed 3 times base salary/target bonus.
    • Single trigger change in control or severance payments.

A full list of the ISS “problematic pay practices” can be found here. Read More ›

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