Crown shareholders throw out exec pay plan

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The troubled Crown Resorts casino operating company in Australia suffered the embarrassment of having its executive pay plans turned down by shareholders for the second straight year.

The annual meeting last week saw a shareholder revolt over executive pay, but the shareholders turned down another option to throw out the entire board of directors.

The group of casino resorts is 37 per cent owned by controversial billionaire James Packer. It has had two years of scandal over money laundering and a public inquiry is still ongoing. Most of its top executives have been replaced during the past year.

Current acting chairperson Jane Halton, addressing the shareholders, had praised the existing board: ”Under the leadership of our significantly renewed board and senior management team, Crown is well placed to continue the momentum of change.” She had noted that ten of the 11 directors at last year’s AGM had now left.

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In the meeting’s vote on remuneration, 30.7 per cent voted against the report; anything more than 25 per cent is needed to reject the plan. Now under Australian company law, shareholders are entitled after a second “no” vote at successive AGMs to hold a subsequent vote on whether to sack the entire board. This move was voted down with 96 per cent opposing it.

Crown’s Sydney casino, one of three in the portfolio, had its licence suspended just prior to opening last December following an inquiry into reports that widespread money laundering had taken place and because of Packer’s “inappropriate influence” over the board. That led to inquiries into the other two casinos, in Melbourne and Perth. Both are now being investigated.

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