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Verizon retirees issue challenge to board, senior execs

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The Association of BellTel Retirees wants Verizon (NYSE: VZ) shareholders to support two proxy initiatives it maintains will make senior executives and the board of directors "more accountable to shareholders," the organization said in a press release.

The proxy initiatives, to be voted upon at the May 1 annual meeting, would give Verizon shareholders the power to approve senior executive severance or termination pay that goes beyond a specified threshold and amend company bylaws to let shareholders nominate a limited number of directors to the board so "Verizon management will not have sole power to select all board members."

Verizon in 2003 adopted a retiree-backed policy requiring shareholder approval of cash settlements exceeding 2.99 percent of base salary plus bonus but minus equity awards. The proxy amendment would "include the full cost of termination payments, including the estimated value of accelerated vesting of Restricted Stock Units and Performance Stock Units" that, the retirees said, is creating "bloated" severance payouts.

The retirees would also like to allow shareholders to "nominate a limited number of directors" to be elected to the board because it would "enhance accountability among directors and allow long-term Verizon shareowners to have a true voice in electing directors who are not all hand-picked by Verizon management."

Citing a "long history of successfully promoting corporate governance and executive compensation reforms that benefit all shareholders," C. William Jones, the association's president, called on approval of these proxy measures to "make senior executives more accountable to the company and its shareholders."

For more:
- see this press release

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