Oracle stockholders don't like exec mega-awards or gender pay gap transparency

You win some, you lose some – proposals snuffed out at vote

Woman thumbs down, image via Shutterstock

Oracle's stockholders have voted against the company's amended executive pay plan, along with a proposal for greater transparency on its gender pay gap.

The new exec pay package would give CTO Larry Ellison and joint CEOs Safra Catz and Mark Hurd pay packets worth more than $100m, and is, for the first time, entirely tied to Big Red's performance.

Investors were last month urged to vote against the plan at the November 15 annual meeting of stockholders, with one proxy adviser calling for an end to "equity mega-awards" for execs.

And at yesterday's meeting, the stockholders did just that, with preliminary results showing the proposal wasn't approved by the majority of stockholders.

Although it's a non-binding vote, it indicates that the majority of Oracle's stockholders – the people it could do with keeping on side – don't think their pay package is up to scratch.

Indeed, Big Red has failed to convince shareholders of their earnings since 2011, even with the latest package amounting to a 47 per cent cut from fiscal 2017. Final numbers on the vote should be released in the next few days.

Gender equity reporting? Nah, we don't need that

The meeting was also asked to consider proposals put forward by stockholders, including two that urged more transparency from Oracle. Both of these votes went in Oracle's favour, and were defeated.

One, proposed by Pax World Mutual Funds, called for Big Red to produce a pay equity report, which Heather Smith – who set out the proposals at the meeting – said was important for the firm's reputation and employee morale.

"By failing to comprehensively address pay equity issues, Oracle may be placing itself at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to talent recruitment, retention and employee productivity," Smith said.

She also noted that a number of companies – Apple, Amazon, Cisco, eBay, Intel, Microsoft, Salesforce and SAP – had already published such information.

In its opposition statement, Oracle effectively said that it already did plenty for women in the business, but as Smith pointed out, "it doesn't provide specific metrics, policies or goals" on addressing a gender pay gap.

Stockholders also voted against a proposal from the New York State Common Retirement Fund that called for a public report disclosing information on regular political contributions.

In the Q&A session after the formal section of the meeting, the Oracle execs were quizzed on progress on the business's shift to the cloud, cybersecurity and competition from Amazon and Salesforce.

On typical form, Ellison batted away concerns about competition, saying that Oracle's "autonomous" database ran 15 times faster than Amazon's Redshift for a tenth of the price. Salesforce, he said, could only "narrow in on one application", whereas Oracle sold a wider range of applications.

"We're aggressively moving and competing with Salesforce... in their strongest market and we are seeing some success," he said.

Perhaps uncharacteristically, though, he had to correct himself when he said Oracle was Salesforce's number one competitor, adding: "To be fair, Microsoft is a strong offering."

Bootnote

Stockholder meetings give every man and his dog the chance to participate, eliciting an entertaining exchange between one shareholder, describing herself as "Mrs Larry", who said she didn't get "all this [technology] stuff" but wanted to know about the cold hard cash.

As well giving Hurd a hand wobble to indicate she didn't buy his assessment that Big Red's "stock prices have been going up", she also told boat-obsessive Larry that she, too, had used her Oracle cash to buy a boat.

"But my boat isn't like your boat. I finally got to buy a motor for my boat. So, now what I am looking forward to is the gas for the boat..."

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