By MATTHEW BROWN
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) â¿¿ Stillwater Mining Co. said Wednesday it was revoking almost 187,000 shares of company stock now worth more than $2.3 million in the wake of a lawsuit that challenged the compensation to its chief executive as excessive.
The disclosure from the precious-metals mining company came as it tries to fend off a corporate takeover attempt by a group including former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer.
The dissident shareholder group has made the company's compensation practices a central issue in its campaign to oust Stillwater's board of directors.The move by the company on Wednesday appeared aimed at quieting any shareholder concerns ahead of a May 2 vote on a proposal to replace the current board. The class-action lawsuit that triggered the stock revocation was filed last week by attorneys for a shareholder. It claimed stock awards to Stillwater Chairman and CEO Frank McAllister in 2010 and 2012 exceeded the company's shareholder-approved compensation plan. The Billings-based company said in a securities filing that board members voted to rescind those awards and another in 2009 "to avoid unnecessary legal expenses and the potential distraction of litigation." The company maintained the awards were not improper as alleged, and rejected the lawsuit as being without merit. The company said that under federal tax regulations that exclude certain types of awards, the compensation limits cited in the lawsuit did not apply to the shares given to McAllister. Stillwater spokesman Dan Gagnier declined further comment. The revocation included all shares that McAllister received or was due in excess of the 250,000-share annual limit in the company's compensation plan. That means McAllister will keep 750,000 shares he was awarded during the three years in question. Stillwater shares closed Wednesday up less than 1 percent at $12.39 on the New York Stock Exchange. A Stillwater shareholder from Pennsylvania, Sylvia Jurgelewicz, was named as the plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Billings.