Nabors yields to investors on severeance pay limit, chief roles

HOUSTON – U.S. land driller Nabors Industries will split the role of chairman and CEO after current chief Anthony Petrello relinquishes his post, one in a series of moves announced Monday to yield to shareholder demands.

The driller, based in Bermuda but operated largely from Houston, would also limit severance payments to about three times an executive’s salary and bonus and allow investors who own five percent of Nabors’ shares to prompt a vote on nominees for the company’s board of directors.

The changes came almost a year after Nabors lost a non-binding shareholder vote on its 2013 compensation plan. A majority of shareholders also voted against two directors.

Shareholder pressure on corporate governance and compensation practices has escalated since the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 gave investors more effective controls over corporate decisions, a response to the 2008 financial crisis.

Those controls include a rule known as “say-on-pay,” which allows non-binding shareholder votes on proposed pay packages. Several of the largest U.S. energy companies cut into long-term incentives last year as capital returns continue to underperform world markets.

Petrello said in a written statement that Nabors has made several corporate governance changes over the past three years, including declassifying its board of directors and shifting executive pay to awards that are more tied to the company’s performance.

In 2012, Petrello’s total pay was $19.7 million, an amount that included a $17.5 million bonus and $100,000 in club memberships, automobile allowances and aircraft fees, according to regulatory documents.

Nabors has not yet published its summary of executive compensation in 2013.