Big pension funds join Barrick board pay spat

Shares in Barrick Gold, the world's top producer of the metal, lost over a third of its market value last year.

John Thornton, executive chairman of the Toronto-based miner, earned $13 million last year. That's up from 2013's $9.5 million, but still below the eye-watering $17 million in 2012 which included a roughly $12 million golden hello.

Three of the world's largest pension funds – Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, British Columbia Investment Management and the Netherlands’ PGGM Vermogensbeheer – have now decided they don't like that discrepancy at all and will vote against the re-election of the board.

The Wall Street Journal reports the funds "are not among ABX’s biggest investors, and some other shareholders have expressed support for the board, but complaints from the funds may act as a rallying call for protesters."

The Ontario Teachers had some choice words for Barrick's top brass who are rewarding themselves handsomely while the company wallows in $10 billion debt:

“We do not believe that sufficient progress has been made in crafting a board with the appropriate set of skills we assess that Barrick needs,” the statement says. “Coupled with our ongoing concerns with the compensation decisions taken by the board, we have now lost confidence in the ability of the directors to effectively exercise their duties to our level of satisfaction.”

The spat stands comes despite the overhaul to executive compensation Barrick announced last year. That plan was called "Barrick Redefines Compensation, Introduces Most Shareholder-Friendly System in Canada".

The pension funds clearly don't relish the irony.