(CN) - Excessive executive compensation has been lining the pockets of Helix Energy Solutions' top brass, a shareholder claims in a derivative action, alleging the execs are receiving huge stock option award grants despite the firm feeling the pinch of a $122 million net loss.
Plaintiff alleges that the offshore energy firm has stated publicly that the "Board's executive compensation practices are firmly rooted in a 'pay-for-performance' policy," meaning Helix would only increase awards to executives under its compensation plan when Helix achieves its goals and decrease if "Helix fails to meet these criteria."
However, plaintiff alleges that in 2010, the company's four biggest earners raked in more than $10 million between them, "despite the fact that all of the major performance metrics of the Company materially decreased." The $10 million in awards were a bump up from the previous year, plaintiff claims, even though revenues were down nearly 18 percent and gross profits had plummeted 86 percent. As well, Helix's net earnings had a loss of 228 percent, while the execs' compensation skyrocketed between 70 and 150 percent from the year before. Plaintiff claims that this constituted "pay for underperformance, in direct violation of the Board's pay for performance policy and its own public statements, and it casts doubt upon the Board's loyalty and business judgement."
Shareholders put the brakes on the increasingly excessive compensation in May 2011, in the company's "first 'say on pay' vote," conducted by proxy. Before the vote, investors had been urged to unilaterally approve the 2010 compensation, but rejected it after the rare vote. Defendants have allegedly ignored the results of the proxy vote since the "Board has not rescinded the excessive 2010 compensation, nor has the Board indicated any intention to do so," the complaint states.
Lead plaintiff Mark Lucas is represented by Paul T. Warner in Cypress, Texas, Robert B. Weiser, Brett D. Stecker, Heffrey J. Ciarlanto and Joseph M. Profy of The Weiser Law Firm in Wayne, Pa., and by U. Seth Ottensoser of Bernstein Liebhard LLP in New York.