Synovus shareholder seeks answers

The Synovus annual meeting was about to adjourn Thursday, when John K. Moore, a shareholder from Charlotte, N.C., asked to address the board.

Moore said he owned 21,000 shares of Synovus stock, and he wanted to ask his questions to Nathaniel Hansford, chairman of the executive compensation committee.

The meeting procedures required questions to be asked of Synovus Chairman Richard Anthony and Moore was not permitted to ask him questions of board members during the meeting.

"We will be happy to meet with you immediately after the meeting," Anthony said.

Anthony, Hansford and President Fred L. Green III met with Moore for about five minutes shortly after the 45-minute meeting in the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts concluded.

Moore, chairman of the Moore Companies, a real estate development and insurance business, later said his concerns centered around corporate governance and executive compensation. And to address those concerns he wanted to speak with someone who is not part of the management team. Anthony spent about 30 minutes addressing the nearly 500 people, many corporate executives, directors, leaders from the company's 37 banks across the Southeast, about the challenges of the current banking environment.

"I appreciate the perspective of management," Moore said. "However, long-term shareholders have a need to hear from independent directors."

The company's executive compensation, governance and audit committees are all chaired by independent directors.

Anthony said he was not trying to shut Moore down.

"It is not that we didn't want to hear what he had to say," Anthony said after the meeting. "We will give him his answers. Compensation and stock options questions in a group setting are virtually impossible to answer. We will take his governance concerns seriously."

The concerns have to do with Anthony's compensation. In 2006, Anthony earned more than $4 million. As the economy turned last year and banking industry was hammered by the mortgage crisis, Anthony made $2.4 million in total compensation. Anthony's 2007 compensation included a base salary of $869,000 and nearly $1.2 million in stock awards and stock options. But there was no bonus.

Another of Moore's concerns is 11 of Synovus' 19 directors are independent of the company, which means they don't work for Synovus or have significant business dealings with Synovus, Moore said.

Moore said he did not get any answers in the short meeting after the meeting. But both Moore and Anthony said a future meeting would be arranged.

Read more in Friday’s Ledger-Enquirer.