May 6, 2011 / 10:00 PM / 8 years ago

UPDATE 1-Occidental stockholders want say on pay every year

* Stockholders vote for holding a yearly say-on-pay vote

* Annual meeting lauds Irani’s accomplishments

* Two shareholder proposals rejected

By Nichola Groom

SANTA MONICA, Calif., May 6 (Reuters) - Occidental Petroleum Corp (OXY.N) shareholders voted in favor of keeping close tabs on executive pay at its annual meeting on Friday, during which the company also lauded the accomplishments of its lavishly paid outgoing CEO.

Occidental shareholders voted to hold a say-on-pay vote every year, rather than every two or three years. The company held its first ever advisory vote on compensation last year as it faced increasing pressure over the size of its management pay packages.

Last October, the company said executive pay would be “substantially” cut and named company veteran Stephen Chazen to succeed Ray Irani in the chief executive post at the annual meeting. Irani will remain executive chairman through 2014.

Irani, who led the fourth-largest U.S. oil company for two decades, is among the highest paid U.S. executives. He earned $76 million last year and has pulled in well over $800 million since 2000.

He has also, as several-hundred shareholders heard during the two-hour meeting in a Santa Monica, California hotel ballroom, presided over a transformative period for Occidental.

“It has been an exciting 20 years for me,” he said at the meeting.

During Irani’s tenure, the Los Angeles-based company’s market capitalization has soared to more than $80 billion from $5 billion and its stock has generated higher returns than many top U.S. companies.

“We’ve outperformed Berkshire Hathaway (BRKa.N) over 20 years,” Chazen said, generating a flood of applause from the audience.

In a tribute to Irani, the company’s lead independent director, Aziz Syriani, called him “one of the truly outstanding leaders in the history of our industry.”

A video tribute to Irani chronicling his 20 years of leadership at Occidental included pictures of him meeting with U.S. presidents Ronald Reagan, George Bush and Bill Clinton.

Irani himself spoke slowly and clearly during the meeting, attributing his success to the company’s board of directors, its employees and his family.

At one point he asked his wife, Ghada, to stand up for the audience.

“Our families do help us in doing the best jobs we can and are a major component of our success,” Irani said.

Later on, however, when he was asked pointedly about the company’s controversial operations in Peru by a representative from environmental group Amazon Watch, Irani said: “Since I’m married, I’m very used to being criticized.”

Environmentalists accuse Occidental of dumping toxic wastewater into the rainforest, contaminating an area inhabited by the Achuar people in Peru.

But shareholders rejected two proposals on Friday spawned by concerns about the company’s environmental practices.

The first would have required a review of the company’s political spending by its board of directors. That proposal grew out of the company’s support last year for a California ballot measure that would have put on hold the state’s landmark climate change law.

The second proposal would have required the nomination of a director with environmental expertise.

Occidental will publish the final vote tallies later this month. (Reporting by Nichola Groom; editing by Andre Grenon)

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