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National Fuel: Trouble on Paradise Coast!

It’s 74 degrees and clear with a light breeze this morning on Florida’s famed paradise coast, although the forecast calls for increasing cloudiness and a chance of rain this evening. That’s where the National Fuel Gas (NFG) Board of Directors is holding its annual stockholders meeting today, at the swank Ritz Carlton in Naples (right).

But it won’t all be leisurely sets of tennis, Hemingway daiquiris, and Maine Lobster with goat cheese ravioli accompanied by a truffle Cherval butter sauce for current National Fuel executives, because a proxy research firm—Institutional Shareholder Services, Inc. (ISS)—has recommended a “no” vote when it comes to this year’s proposed executive compensation.

ISS claims a “pay for performance disconnect,” and states that National Fuel CEO David Smith’s $7 million-plus compensation is out of line with that of his peers. Another fund, Christian Brothers Investment Services (CBIS), is voting against “ratifying auditors” and against “the advisory vote to ratify named executives’ compensation.”

It’s enough to make an executive choke on his Floridian snapper with golden beets, pickled mushroom, beluga lentils and chive oil.

National Fuel Gas general counsel and secretary Paula M. Ciprich has strongly urged shareholders to approve the compensation in arguments filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). You can read her impassioned pleas here. And here.

If they decide to vote against the compensation, expect more than one stressed-out executive to take advantage of the Ritz Carlton Spa’s 80-minute organic seaweed leaf wrap for $215.

Meanwhile, tomorrow (Fri 3/9), a new report being released by the Public Accountability Initiative, the National Fuel Accountability Coalition, and 99% New York will show that for the past three years NFG has used corporate loopholes to avoid paying $400 million in taxes. Smith’s $7 million in 2010 and 2011 represents more than what NFG paid in state and federal taxes combined—while showing $1.1 billion in pre-tax profits.

The report will be unveiled at a press conference tomorrow at 1pm at 409 Main St—the downtown National Fuel office. Dress warmly. The projected high in Buffalo will be around 37 degrees, with a low around 23, and a 40 percent chance of precipitation in the form of snow.





  • Marshall Bertram

    Great news! I am ecstatic the people of Buffalo, especially PUSH members, are at least slightly vindicated by ISS, and hopefully by Nat Fuel’s shareholders soon. Look forward to the press conference!