Wenger’s gripe with Daimler

Even a small turnaround in DaimlerChrysler’s fortunes over the next nine years could enrich the automaker’s embattled managers.

And that enrages Ekkehard Wenger, a University of Würzburg finance professor and militant shareholder activist who recently lost a suit to invalidate Daimler’s estimated E2 billion ($1.76 billion) options package.

Beyond the implications for Daimler shareholders, the court decision means German companies don,t have to disclose the value of the options packages that they ask investors to vote on in annual general meetings,, complains Wenger, 49. As the head of Verein zur Förderung der Aktionärsdemocratie (Association for the Promotion of Shareholder Democracy), Wenger has often clashed with Daimler management. Security guards tossed him out of the company’s 1993 annual meeting after he tried to confront supervisory board chairman Hilmar Kopper about a share swap plan that Wenger felt was inequitable.

The current options package, which covers 6,000 managers, is generous even by German standards. To be able to exercise their options, the managers need to produce only an average annual return of 3.7 percent over this decade. ,It is pathetic that they could be rewarded for performance that does not even match the risk-free return of a German Bund,, says Wenger. The professor, who has sued 50 companies over the past ten years, is appealing the decision to the federal court.