SEC says Wal-Mart can omit shareholder proposal on staff ‘engagement’

(Reuters) – Wal-Mart Stores Inc said it would omit a shareholder proposal that sought to link executive pay to a measure of staff motivation from a vote at its annual meeting in June after the U.S. securities regulator ruled in the retailer’s favor.

The proposal was submitted by Connecticut Treasurer Denise Nappier in December. It called for a measure of “employee engagement” to be used in tandem with financial metrics in determining the pay of senior executives.

The Securities and Exchange Commission sided with Wal-Mart’s assertion that it could be omitted on the grounds that it had already been “substantially implemented” in other ways by the company, according to the ruling posted on the SEC’s website.

“The SEC agreed that it could be excluded again this year on that basis,” Wal-Mart spokesman Randy Hargrove said, referring to a similar version of the proposal that failed to make the ballot last year as well.

The fate of the proposal had been in focus after Wal-Mart announced in February that it would raise its minimum wage in a move that was in part aimed at better engaging with and retaining its rank-and-file staff.

While Nappier applauded Wal-Mart’s decision on wages she had argued that her proposal was still needed to ensure that Wal-Mart was committed to investing in its workers over the longer term. Her office oversees $40 million worth of the retailer’s shares in state pension and trust funds.

Earlier this month the SEC ruled against Wal-Mart in its bid to omit a separate shareholder proposal, submitted by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters General Fund, that calls for an independent board chairman.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne; Editing by Chris Reese)

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