Retirees: Separate Verizon chairman, CEO jobs

A proxy group for Verizon Communications retirees called the Association of BellTel Retirees is planning to propose  at the company's annual shareholder meeting on May 1 that Verizon's chairman and CEO jobs be separated and not held by the same person. If the group sounds familiar, that is because BellTel Retirees was the organization that pushed for and won the right for Verizon shareholders to be able to vote on issues of executive compensation. Verizon directors aren't required to act on the vote, but winning that right was a significant step forward for the representation of retirees in company matters, and Verizon is one of few public companies that actually allow such a vote.

Currently, Ivan Seidenberg is chairman and CEO of Verizon, and has been for several years, while Denny Strigl is president and chief operating officer. BellTel Retirees claims to have about 110,000 members and aims to represent more than 220,000 retirees from Verizon and affiliated firms, including Bell Atlantic, Nynex, GTE and MCI. It remains to be seen whether or not this proposal will gain steam leading up to the shareholders meeting. It is worth noting that during the industry downturn earlier this decade, there was a broad movement to re-evaluate the tradition of having the same person hold chairman, CEO and president responsibilities. In some cases, it was determined that companies would not be able to recruit the highest-caliber executives if they split up the jobs, though a few companies made a concerted effort to do so. It is also worth noting that over at AT&T, Randall Stephenson is chairman, CEO and president.

For more:
- see this Associated Press story at BusinessWeek

Related article:
- Check out more Verizon news, including Seidenberg's 2007 compensation, here