Lexmark exec's pay at issue again for shareholders

This year's annual shareholder meeting for printer maker Lexmark International might seem familiar.

Sixty percent of stockholders approved a measure last year that sought to give them a non-binding vote on executive pay.

It's back again.

Lexmark executives said the company took "meaningful actions" in 2008 but did not agree to adopt the proposal, which will again be discussed at the meeting that will be held at 8 a.m. Thursday at the Embassy Suites on Newtown Pike.

The company argues that the vote would place Lexmark at a "competitive disadvantage" because rival firms wouldn't be subject to such a non-binding vote.

Also, Lexmark said that in the past year it surveyed shareholders that hold more than 60 percent of its stock and also had one-on-one conference calls with the largest shareholders to discuss compensation practices.

An investment fund associated with Amalgamated Bank, which bills itself as "America's Labor Bank," has made the proposal both times, saying the vote "gives shareholders a clear voice that could help shape senior executive compensation."

Lexmark, though, says there would not be "any clear indication of the meaning of (the) vote."

Thursday's vote comes as compensation for Lexmark's top executive continues to fall.

Chief Executive Paul Curlander saw his total compensation fall from $8.18 million in 2007 to $4.25 million in 2008, driven by a more than $3 million decline in the value of his stock option awards.

Curlander's compensation might well drop further next year. Earlier this year, he asked the board not to award him a stock-based long-term incentive award in 2009 as a way to "control costs during this current economic downturn."