In a swift 17-minute meeting held in a Oklahoma City hotel Thursday, NextEra Energy won shareholder approval of a $31 million compensation package for its five top executives, and defeated two proposals aimed at increasing transparency over how the company is handling sea level rise and political contributions.
“The company you own had a very strong 2015,'' declared NextEra president and CEO Jim Robo.
He is among the company’s five top executives who shareholders agreed will be paid $31 million in performance pay and stock because of the company’s strong financial performance in the last year. Robo alone earned at least $15.2 million in compensation in 2015, according to the company’s proxy statement.
The Juno Beach-based company is the parent of Florida Power & Light and one of the nation's largest utility conglomerates. The audio cast of the annual meeting for company shareholders is available on the company’s web site.
Robo cited NextEra’s better than average reliability, its lower than average customers bills, its satisfaction among business customers, its acquisition of a Texas pipeline, and its expanding wind and solar market as evidence of “the whole company delivering outstanding financial performance for our shareholders.”
Robo did not address troubles ahead, such as the federal and state orders for FPL to clean up its leaking cooling canals to stop a plume of saltwater from migrating into South Florida’s drinking water supplies and leaking into Biscayne Bay, or the resistance the company faces in its bid to purchase Hawaii Electric.
Robo recognized a representative for Coral Gables activist and NextEra shareholder, Alan Farago and his wife Lisa Versaci, to present their shareholder proposal to require the company to report each year on the risk its faces from sea-level rise. Farago has argued that FPL's position as the supplier of electricity to Florida's East Coast is “extraordinarily vulnerable to the financial disruptions of climate change.”
NextEra opposed the nonbinding measure, arguing that “a proposal that asks the company to speculate on a single aspect of global climate change nearly a century into the future would be a waste of time and money.”
NextEra shareholders — most of them mutual funds and financial companies — rejected the proposal, with 65 percent opposed and nearly all of the votes cast before the meeting.
Farago said he was encouraged by the vote, given the fact it was a first-time resolution.
“The issue's not going away and we're not going away,” he said. “I expect in the future there will be a lot more resolutions related to this disconnect between corporate behavior and investor concerns and sea level rise.”
The vote was closer for the proposal by Thomas P. DiNapoli, the comptroller of the State of New York who represents the New York State Common Retirement Fund, which owns more than 1.2 million shares of NextEra stock.
DiNapoli’s proposal would have required NextEra to disclose all political expenditures the company makes each year, including all campaign contributions made to candidates, campaigns and non-profits. It was rejected by 55 percent of the NextEra shareholders; last year, 60 percent of the shareholders defeated the measure.
Since the Citizens United ruling, DiNapoli has been on a campaign to get the nation’s Fortune 500 companies in which his state’s fund invests to list their spending on candidates, political parties, ballot measures, any direct or indirect state and federal lobbying, payments to any trade associations used for political purposes, and payments made to any organization that writes and endorses model legislation.
The measure attempts to shine a spotlight on dark money political contributions and on companies that publicly take one position but privately campaign against it. Aetna Insurance, for example, claimed support for Obamacare then accidentally disclosed documents that showed it had spent $7 million financing efforts by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other groups to oppose it.
According to the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Political Accountability “NextEra Energy does not disclose its contributions to candidates, parties, and committees, or its payments to trade associations and other tax-exempt groups, such as 527 or 501(c)(4) organizations.”
A Herald/Times analysis of campaign records at the Florida Division of Elections found that FPL alone spent $2.3 million on candidates and campaigns in the last six months of 2015.
In addition to Robo’s pay, the shareholders approved the following executive compensation for 2015:
* Robo: $24 million in outstanding equity incentive awards;
* Moray Dewhurst, chief financial officer, $4.9 million in performance pay, $8.7 million in outstanding equity incentives;
* Manoochehr K. Nazar, president of the nuclear division, $4.5 million in performance pay and $5.6 million in outstanding equity incentives;
* Armando Pimentel, Jr, president of NextEra Energy Resources, $4.3 million in performance pay and $5.2 million in outstanding equity;
* Eric Silagy, president of FPL, $3.2 million in performance pay and $2.9 million in outstanding equity incentives.
Mary Ellen Klas: firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @MaryEllenKlas