This excerpt taken from the UNH DEF 14A filed Apr 28, 2008.
We have been informed that the AFSCME Employee Pension Plan (AFSCME), 1625 L Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., 20036-5687, a beneficial holder of 8,944 shares of common stock, intends to introduce at the Annual Meeting the following resolution. In accordance with SEC rules, the text of the proposed shareholder resolution and supporting statement is printed verbatim from its submission.
RESOLVED, that the shareholders of UnitedHealth Group Incorporated (the Company) urge the Board of Directors to adopt a policy that a significant portion of future equity compensation grants to senior executives shall be shares of stock that require the achievement of performance goals as a prerequisite to vesting (performance-vesting shares).
This policy shall apply to existing employment agreements and equity compensation plans only if the use of performance-vesting shares can be legally implemented by the Company, and will otherwise apply to the design of all future plans and agreements.
The proponent has furnished the following statement:
We believe that our Companys compensation policies should encourage the ownership of stock by senior executives in order to align their interests with those of shareholders. To achieve this goal, we favor granting senior executives actual shares of stock that vest only after meeting specified performance goals. In our opinion, performance-vesting shares are a better form of equity compensation than fixed-price stock options or time-vesting restricted stock.
Fixed-price stock option grants provide senior executives with incentives that may not be in the best interests of long-term shareholders. In our view, stock option grants promise executives all the benefit of share price increases while limiting their exposure to the risk of share price declines. This asymmetrical incentive structure can reward executives for share price volatility, a measure of investment risk. Stock options can also reward short-term decision-making because many executives options can be exercised just one year after the grant date. Furthermore, we believe that stock options can create a strong incentive to manipulate a companys stock price through questionable or even fraudulent accounting.
Similarly, we oppose granting executives time-vesting restricted stock that does not include any performance requirements. In our view, time-vesting restricted stock rewards tenure, not performance. Instead, we believe vesting requirements should be tailored to measure each individual executives performance through disclosed benchmarks, in addition to the Companys share price. To align their incentives with those of long-term shareholders, we also believe that senior executives should be required to hold a significant portion of these performance-vesting shares for as long as they remain executives of the Company.
Executive compensation consultant Pearl Meyer has said if a company is going to issue restricted stock grants as a way of making sure executives are owners rather than optionees, the grant should be earned on a performance basis it shouldnt be just a giveaway.
We urge shareholders to vote for this proposal.