Interpublic Shareholders Vent Spleen at Annual Meeting

19 May 2004

Shareholders in Interpublic Group this week approved new employee incentive plans -- but gave senior management an ear-bashing in the process.

At the agency giant's annual meeting in New York, several shareholders attacked the company's recent performance. One investor complained that a chart tracking the company's stock price "only looks good if you turn it upside down"; another referred to the accounting problems that prompted massive write-downs as a "body blow".

Because of the company's recent troubles, some investors were unhappy with the level of bonuses -- at least $41.4 million (€34.5m; £23.3m) -- handed out last year. One queried the $1m given to chairman/ceo David Bell "when shareholders are waiting for their bonuses called dividends" (a reference to IPG's suspension of payouts to investors holding common stock).

However, Bell defended the bonuses. "Not to reward the best people who are performing," he said, "is to invite competitors to poach the very people."

Despite the anger of some shareholders, the meeting approved a performance incentive plan for 2004. This will offer cash and shares to 5,600 staff and set aside stock to reward non-executive directors.

In addition, the ten directors up for re-election to the board -- including Bell -- received shareholders' blessing.

Data sourced from: New York Times; additional content by WARC staff