The annual shareholders meeting for EQT Corp. was adjourned for more than an hour this morning after angry shareholders began shouting questions at chief executive officer David Porges about fair executive compensation, the ethics of its board of directors and a proposal to shorten director tenures to one year.
Anti-drilling activists had gathered outside the Downtown building before the meeting, but it was EQT shareholders and their proxies who commandeered the meeting inside.
One proposal was introduced by shareholders to shorten director tenures from three years to one.
The company recommended voting against the item, but no voting had taken place before the adjournment. The shareholders were directed to the lobby to wait.
One shareholder asked if the board of directors supported the "Buffett Rule," a recently defeated piece of legislation trying to raise tax rates on top earners.
Mr. Porges defended his firm's compensation packages, saying he'd seen a chart on MSNBC during his morning workout today that showed the average ratio of pay between the nation's CEOs and regular workers and that EQT's was much fairer.
The protesters were escorted outside the EQT building, chanting and trying in vain to get in touch with the company's general counsel.
The meeting reconvened shortly after noon. Mr. Porges returned to an almost-empty room, his board of directors and senior management team staying upstairs and the protesters moving on. All four resolutions put before the board passed, including a shareholder resolution to shorten board tenures from three years to one.
Mr. Porges said the disruption was part of a "broader movement" ofanti-corporation sentiment.
"I don't think the unrest had anything to do with EQT proper," said Mr. Porges.
Their concerns were tied to general industry practices like hydraulic fracturing and a frustration over what they see as outsized compensation and profit at a time when the state is cutting budgets for education and transportation. A 28X Port Authority bus drove by and honked in support.
EQT said members of its legal team took paper ballots to shareholders assembled outside so they could vote on resolutions before the board.
Erich Schwartzel: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1455. First Published April 18, 2012 8:30 PM