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Electronic Arts investors reject executive pay in rare rebuke

FILE PHOTO: An Electronic Arts (EA) video game logo is seen at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, in Los Angeles, California, United States, June 17, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo GLOBAL BUSINESS WEEK AHEAD FILE PHOTO: An Electronic Arts (EA) video game logo is seen at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, in Los Angeles, California, United States, June 17, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo GLOBAL BUSINESS WEEK AHEAD
FILE PHOTO: An Electronic Arts (EA) video game logo is seen at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, in Los Angeles, California, United States, June 17, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo GLOBAL BUSINESS WEEK AHEAD (REUTERS)

Electronic Arts said it uses special performance-based equity awards “sparingly” and that it has shown strong results.

Electronic Arts Inc. shareholders overwhelmingly rejected the company’s executive compensation plan in an advisory vote.

Investors in the video-game giant, maker of the Madden football games, cast almost 171 million votes against the pay plan for named officers and almost 60 million in favor, the company said Friday in a regulatory filing.

The voted marked a rare rebuke. Just 2.2% of companies in the Russell 3000 have seen their say-on-pay proposals rejected by investors thus far in 2020, according to a report.

The plan faced opposition from proxy advisers such as Institutional Shareholder Services, which earlier cited “significant concerns” about a special round of stock awards.

Executives had previously received special equity awards for fiscal 2018 that haven’t yet vested, raising questions about the necessity of the latest payouts, the proxy adviser said in a report.

Another proxy adviser, Glass Lewis & Co., also opposed the pay plan, as did CtW Investment Group, a labor-backed group.

“We value the opinion of our shareholders, and the board and compensation committee will take their feedback into account as part of our ongoing evaluation of our compensation programs,” the company said in an email. “We work constantly to make Electronic Arts a great place to be and work for our people, and in highly competitive talent markets, we work aggressively to keep the great people we have.”

Electronic Arts Chief Executive Officer Andrew Wilson is paid 56% more than a median CEO peer, ISS said, which “has a ratcheting effect on executive compensation.”

The company, based in Redwood City, California, said in a regulatory filing that its “pay practices align with our financial results.”

Its shares have risen 34% this year, boosted by industrywide growth in gaming during the pandemic.

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