Top pension funds oppose Barrick Gold co-chairman compensation

Seven of Canada’s largest pension funds and one international entity are voicing their concern about the $11.9 million signing bonus Barrick Gold (TSX, NYSE: ABX) handed out to its co-chairman, John Thornton, last year.

In a statement the group said it will vote against members of the gold company’s compensation committee at next week’s annual meeting.

Thornton was appointed as co-chairman in June last year as part of a company reshuffle that also meant the departure of Aaron Regent as president and chief executive officer. Regent was replaced then by Jamie Sokalsky, in hopes of restoring the firm’s stock price.

In total, the executive got a whopping $17 million compensation package simply for accepting the role of co-chairman.

The investor group said that sum is “unprecedented in Canada” for a co-chairman.

“This compensation is inconsistent with the governance principle of pay-for-performance and is therefore disproportionate and sets a troubling precedent in Canadian capital markets,” added the group.

The cluster includes seven top Canadian institutions: Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, Alberta Investment Management Corp., British Columbia Investment Management Corp., Caisse de dépôt et placement du Quebec, Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System, and Public Sector Pension Investment Board. Hermes Equity Ownership Services, which represents assets on behalf of more than 30 major institutional funds worldwide, is also part of the team.

(Image courtesy of Barrick)