Shareholders heaped hot words on MTR Corporation Limited’s management over a golden handshake given to former chief executive Jay Walder and a massive cost overrun due to delayed construction of a cross-border express rail link.
The scolding came after the rail operator revealed in its latest annual report that it had paid the embattled Walder more than HK$21 million including HK$15.7 million in a contractual settlement when he abruptly quit last year.
At an annual general meeting yesterday morning, a participant challenged the rail firm’s management to forgo their salaries to pay for Walder’s departure instead of having average shareholders like him foot the bill.
“You said he was fit for the job when you hired him. Now with the mess he has left behind, who’s going to pay the price?” a shareholder, surnamed Cheung, demanded.
“The price shouldn’t have been borne by us. [Chairman Raymond] Ch’ien Kuo- fung and other directors should cover the loss with their own salaries!”
His remarks were met with a round of applause and cheering from the hall.
Federation of Trade Unions lawmaker Bill Tang Ka-piu, also a shareholder, said the MTRCL should be as generous to the public as it was to Walder by not raising train fares this year.
Walder’s resignation was announced last May after he was censured over a two-year delay in the construction of the local section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong high-speed rail. His contract was to expire this August.
Dorothy Chan Yuen Tak-fai, chairwoman of the MTRCL’s remuneration committee, said the golden handshake complied with the employment ordinance and contract.
She added the board and Walder agreed then it was in the firm’s best interest for the American to leave last year.
Concerning the additional cost resulting from the project’s delay, Ch’ien said expenses are being reviewed and can be revised upward due to some “significant” technical challenges at the express link’s construction site. He reassured shareholders that dividend payouts would not be affected.