This has been the worst month in Barrick Gold Corp.’s modern history. It is about to get worse.
On Wednesday, the Toronto-based gold miner will be greeted by some very frustrated shareholders at its annual meeting. The company does not usually face hostility from investors at its AGMs, but this year appears to be different.
Virtually everything has gone wrong for Barrick lately. And as gold began a steep descent last week and the company’s key project was partially halted, the stock price plunged 33% in six days. It is an gut-wrenching freefall for a company of Barrick’s size and it takes the stock to its lowest levels since 1993 when gold averaged just US$360 an ounce.
Remarkably, an even bigger source of investor ire emerged on Friday. Seven of Canada’s largest pension funds announced that they are opposing the US$11.9-million “signing bonus” that Barrick paid to co-chairman John Thornton last year, and plan to vote against the entire compensation committee. Mr. Thornton received a whopping US$17-million in 2012, and he was not the only beneficiary of Barrick’s largesse. Chairman Peter Munk (US$4.3-million), chief executive Jamie Sokalsky (US$11.4-million) and “ambassador” Brian Mulroney ($2.5-million) all received big pay hikes despite a bad year for the stock price.
The compensation looked excessive even before the stock got crushed this month. And while Barrick may settle with the pension funds before the AGM, the pay could overshadow the event.