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Investors reject bid for say on J&J pay

Shareholders of health care giant Johnson & Johnson narrowly rejected a proposal to give themselves a “say on pay” of top executives, but the vote results may not be final.

The close vote on Thursday – 52 percent against it and 48 percent for – was on a proposal to give stockholders an advisory vote on compensation of top executives.

J&J Chief Executive William Weldon said that because the preliminary vote was so close, it is possible that the final tally, including votes cast at the meeting, could change.

Most shareholders, including large institutional investors, cast votes in advance of annual meetings electronically or by mail. A final result will be reported this week.

The “say on pay” issue has been a hot one in recent years as shareholders of many major corporations, concerned about the number of executives getting compensation packages exceeding $10 million a year, have pushed for some voice in executive compensation – and in some cases, gotten it.

J&J shareholders also rejected a proposal to reduce the percentage of shares needed to call a special meeting, on a vote of 63 percent against and 37 percent for the plan.

The votes came at an annual meeting in the company’s headquarters town, New Brunswick, N.J., with shareholders packed into a hotel auditorium and three overflow rooms. J&J is the parent company of Warsaw-based DePuy Orthopaedics.

Weldon told the crowd that the company had come through a difficult year but had met many of its goals, including launching important new products, focusing sales efforts on fast-growing markets in emerging companies and increasing productivity by starting a restructuring program. The company plans to eliminate about 8,000 jobs worldwide.

“We continue to deliver solid financial results,” Weldon said. “Our people still managed to hold operational sales steady, improve profitability and move innovations into the market.”

He also announced J&J has raised its quarterly dividend to 54 cents from 49 cents. The change increases the company’s annual dividend to $2.16 from $1.96.