Tone deafness in Cochlear pay deal

Tone deafness in Cochlear pay deal

IS BIONIC ear maker Cochlear finally listening to the howls of shareholders over the pay deal of chief executive Chris Roberts?

At October's annual meeting chairman Rick Holliday-Smith defended the issue of $1 million worth of in-the-money options to Roberts, despite proxy groups warning they were issued with too low a performance hurdle.

Holliday-Smith described the company's executive pay as "commercial and in the interests of employees and shareholders", but a significant proportion of shareholders disagreed, earning the company a first strike.

The company has now turned up the gain on its hearing aid, using a multiple-choice internet questionnaire to ask shareholders who voted against its remuneration report why they did so. However, tone deafness might still be an issue at Cochlear, with answers relating to those pesky options buried down near the bottom of the survey.

Nuts about Kevin

MEMO Kevin Rudd: forget Canberra, Lismore is calling.

Australia's macadamia nut industry has called on Kevin from Queensland for help fighting the Yanks in Asia.

The Lismore-based Australian Macadamia Society is angry that in China macadamias are often sold as Hawaiian nuts, even though they're actually native to Australia.

"Fifty per cent of Australians don't know that, so what hope have we got overseas?" said spokeswoman Lynne Ziehlke, who reckons Australia is the biggest macadamia producer in the world, every year pumping out nuts with a street value of $375 million. Hawaii comes in third after South Africa.

"We're just mounting a campaign in Taiwan at the moment to say, your Hawaiian nuts come from Australia," Ziehlke said.

The nutters also want Kevin to help hurry up negotiations for free trade agreements with Asian countries, with Ziehlke telling CBD the US is gaining on Australia because it has already struck deals in the region. "We are at a significant commercial disadvantage in Korea because they won't conclude the FTA," she said. "The tariff disadvantage gets worse every year."

But watch out, macadamia lovers: the industry is waiting to see whether the recent floods will cut this year's crop.

Ziehlke said it's "challenging to get enough macadamias out into the marketplace". Apparently nuts have been tight for years.

He called it right

RELIEF for HSBC's Paul Bloxham on Tuesday after the economist, hired with much fanfare from the Reserve Bank back in 2010, correctly predicted that his former employer would not move official rates from 3 per cent.

The call ends a run of bad luck for Bloxham, who got it wrong in October and November.

It was a good day for the econotariat, with just four of 28 surveyed by Bloomberg getting it wrong - almost the mirror image of the situation when the RBA last met on Cup Day in November and only seven of 27 got it right.

This month's unlucky eggheads are David de Garis of NAB, Dominic Bryant of BNP Paribas, Joshua Williamson of Citi and John Honan of Ausbil Dexia, who all picked a 25 basis point cut.

Settling the bill

FORMER Energy Watch chief executive Ben Polis aims to settle a $580,000 tax bill rather than accept bankruptcy at the hands of the ATO. As CBD reported on Tuesday, the ATO has asked the Federal Magistrates Court to sequester Polis' estate after Polis failed to meet an October Victorian Supreme Court order that he stump up the money.

Polis told CBD the bill relates to unpaid withholding taxes on employee wages which he only discovered after returning from a ski holiday in New Zealand back in September 2011.

He said the ATO issued him with a director's penalty notice, making him personally liable for the debt. Lawyers are apparently locked in talks ahead of a first hearing set down for March 14 in Melbourne.

Polis also told CBD he'd like to clarify some details reported on Tuesday about his home in Middle Park. He said he never owned it, and it wasn't worth $1.4 million. Apparently it was worth much more than that.

OMG, he's dead?

CBD has been fretting about the fate of Celebrity Apprentice and PR maven Roxy Jacenko if hubby Oliver Curtis is found guilty of insider trading charges and sent to the big house. While flacking may be feeling the economic pressures endemic to the media sector, Jacenko has a second career as a fiction writer to fall back on. She's the author of a novel about a PR girl who makes it big in Sydney, Strictly Confidential, which CBD recently bought for the princely sum of $12.95. It was worth every cent - although perhaps not the dollars.

In what other novel does a character say: "OMG, Osama bin Laden is dead?"

Got a tip?


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