Bank of New York Mellon chairman and CEO Gerald Hassell faced a contentious group of shareholders today angered over his multi-million dollar pay package and an assertion that the bank exploits loopholes to avoid paying corporate income taxes in Pennsylvania.
"You made $12 million," said one angry shareholder at the New York-based bank's annual meeting at the Omni William Penn hotel, Downtown. "I don't know how you sleep at night making that when lower-paid employees are making $10 an hour."
Another shareholder said he toiled in steel mills for 40 years.
"Do you think it's fair that I would have to work 240 years to make what you make in one year?" he asked.
"I really don't have a comment for that," replied Mr. Hassell, overseeing his first annual shareholders meeting since succeeding Robert Kelly as CEO in August.
"I appreciate there are a lot of people out of work and struggling," Mr. Hassell said later. "Our way of dealing with that is making this company strong."
Mr. Hassell faced a barrage of criticism that lasted for nearly two hours, including chants of "pay your fair share" amid accusations that the bank paid no corporate income taxes in Pennsylvania because it was incorporated in Delaware.
Mr. Hassell disputed that claim, saying that incorporating in Delaware was done "for a variety of good business reasons ... not for tax reasons."
"We pay a tremendous amount of taxes in Pennsylvania," Mr. Hassell said. "We pay taxes based on where our income is generated."
At one point, security guards escorted one angry shareholder out of the meeting after shouting her concerns and repeatedly refusing to be officially recognized at the microphone.
"You think that you make the rules, that you can do whatever you want," she said before being ushered out. "I'm tired of it."
Two shareholder resolutions were defeated at the meeting: one that would have split the chairman and CEO positions and another that called for cumulative voting rights that would have allowed shareholders to cast a larger number for votes for a single director nominee.
A "say on pay" advisory resolution approving the compensation for top executives received a majority of votes cast.
Patricia Sabatini: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-3066. First Published April 11, 2012 12:00 AM