At today’s 2014 Annual Meeting of Shareowners, Maria Elena Lagomasino, member of the Board of Directors for The Coca-Cola Company and Chair of the Compensation Committee, addressed the meeting and gave the following remarks about the 2014 Equity Plan proposal:
Let me begin by saying that the Compensation Committee of the Board takes very seriously its responsibility to oversee the development of these kinds of compensation programs. We fully understand that the decisions we make affect not only our senior leaders but a large group of employees as well. Ultimately our work affects you, the shareowners, because we promote the success of the Company by linking the personal interests of our associates to those of our shareowners.
Maria Elena Lagomasino
Maria Elena Lagomasino
We have been pleased over the last few weeks to hear very positive feedback from investors about these plan changes and about our compensation programs in general. Investors know that compensation programs, like the Equity Plan, help create incentives that drive this business forward.
Muhtar mentioned at the beginning of this meeting that the Company has generated $10.5 billion dollars in cash from operations... and returned $8.5 billion dollars in value to shareowners through dividends and net share repurchases.
We also increased our dividend for the 52nd consecutive year, this time by 9 percent. We did all of this in a challenging year.
Now let me speak directly to this Equity Plan. The 2014 Equity Plan will, like its predecessors, encourage our employees to act like owners by tying their interests to those of everyone who owns a share of The Coca-Cola Company. We are pleased that we are seeing broad-based investor support for this plan and that the two most influential proxy advisors have recommended support for the plan.
Similar plans in the past have helped drive significant gains for shareowners, including increasing market capitalization over $70 billion over the last five years.
Importantly, this Plan will further the Company’s ability to motivate, attract, and retain employees. This Company attracts great talent. The caliber of our talent runs very deep. In fact, many of our people, if they chose to, have the opportunity to go elsewhere and run other businesses. These equity programs work for us to retain and keep motivated these talented people.
As Muhtar noted, there has been some public discussion around this Plan. I personally believe that any informed debate about the topic of compensation is important, and it will help as companies and investors alike seek to evolve pay practices to the continued benefit of the shareowners.
With that said, I would like to take another moment now to correct some inaccuracies about the plan that have been reported.
First, this plan does not result in changes to our pay practices - The 2014 Equity Plan is closely in line with past plans approved by the Board and the shareowners.
The second point is that we firmly believe that equity compensation is performance-based. If the Company does not perform, compensation is not realized.
Third, eligibility for this Plan is not limited to senior management. The 2014 Equity Plan is not solely for senior management. There are approximately 6,400 participants in the plan globally.
Finally, this proposed Equity Plan continues our past practice with long-term equity, which has historically been minimally dilutive. The new plan does not change those practices. We do not plan to change how we grant long-term equity or repurchase shares and the new plan is not any more dilutive than historical plans and programs.
Thank you, and the Board appreciates your consideration of our request for your vote in favor of this proposal.