Shareholder proposals to exclude the impact of buybacks from executive comp metrics — will they become a new trend?
A recurring demand by hedge fund activists is that the target company return capital to its shareholders by buying back its own stock. Data compiled by S&P and Bloomberg shows that companies in the S&P 500 spent 95% of their earnings on repurchases and dividends in 2014, including spending $553 billion on stock buybacks. But, in some cases, conducting a stock buyback can be an ultimatum with which company executives are actually happy to comply. Why? One of the more appealing consequences of the buyback trend for company executives is that, in some cases where compensation performance metrics are stock-price- or EPS-related, buybacks can juice executive compensation, irrespective of the operational success of the company. Now, some governance activists are beginning to challenge whether that favorable consequence should be curtailed.