UPDATE 1-J&J shareholders approve CEO Gorsky's near-$30 mln pay plan

Jessica DiNapoli
·2 min read

(New throughout, adds background and comment)

By Jessica DiNapoli

NEW YORK, April 22 (Reuters) - Shareholders at Johnson & Johnson approved on a non-binding advisory basis Chief Executive Alex Gorsky's $29.6 million pay plan for 2020 at the healthcare company's annual general meeting on Thursday.

The approval was a win for J&J, which faced a "vote no" campaign on its executive pay from the Office of the Illinois State Treasurer, a member of the Investors for Opioid and Pharmaceutical Accountability (IOPA) a coalition which has 61 members with $4.2 trillion in assets under management.

The Illinois Treasurers Office urged shareholders to reject Gorsky's pay because it excluded from its calculation of stock awards some $9 billion in costs related to thousands of lawsuits claiming it helped fuel the U.S. opioid crisis and that traces of asbestos in its talc baby powder caused cancer.

J&J has said the move is consistent with its long-term practices.

The final results of the vote, including the total number of J&J investors who approved the pay arrangement, will be released in the coming days.

Companies typically will engage with shareholders and potentially adopt changes to their pay practices if they receive significant number of votes against their compensation.

"It sends a message to the company even if you get as high as 30% support" on a "vote no" campaign, said Donna Meyer, director of shareholder advocacy at Mercy Investment Services Inc. "You get the company to talk with you about it."

Gorsky also answered a question from an investor on the possible link between J&J's COVID-19 vaccine and a very rare but serious blood clot condition that led to a U.S. pause in its use.

He said the company was looking forward to a U.S. regulatory meeting and review of the issue scheduled for Friday.

"We strongly support awareness of the signs and symptoms of this extremely rare event to ensure the correct diagnosis, appropriate treatment and expedited reporting by healthcare professionals," Gorsky said. "We continue to believe in the positive benefit-risk profile of our vaccine." (Reporting by Jessica DiNapoli in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot and David Gregorio)