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In symbolic pushback, Barrick shareholders vote against compensation plan

Peter Munk, Founder & Chairman of Barrick Gold, speaks during the company’s Annual General Meeting at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in Toronto April 24, 2013.

Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail

Barrick Gold Corp. shareholders have voted against a resolution on executive compensation after the embattled gold miner paid co-chairman John Thornton an $11.9-million (U.S.) signing bonus just before it announced a multi-billion dollar cost overrun on a major project in Chile.

Seven major Canadian pension funds – including the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS), Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board – first announced last week that they would oppose Mr. Thornton's pay package, worth $17-million in total for 2012. Beyond Mr. Thornton, six executives at Barrick were paid a total of $47.4-million last year, with one who is departing getting an additional $12-million.

"The Barrick board of directors takes the shareholder vote seriously, and will carefully consider our shareholders' perspectives regarding executive compensation," chief executive officer Jamie Sokalsky said after the vote at Barrick's Annual General Meeting in Toronto on Wednesday.

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Barrick did not give further details of the vote, which is non-binding but is a highly symbolic pushback from shareholders who have seen the stock price sliced by more than half in the past year.

Last week the shares touched their lowest level in 20 years, topping off a year that saw Barrick write down half the value of copper assets acquired in 2011 and announce a one-year delay at its flagship Pascua-Lama gold project in Chile. To top it all off, gold prices suffered their steepest losses in three decades last week, setting analysts fretting about Barrick's liquidity.

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