Nikola shareholders reject executive pay proposal

Shareholders of Nikola Corp (NKLA.O) have voted against a proposal to approve compensation awarded to its “named executive officers,” including $159.2 million to founder and former executive chairman Trevor R. Milton that was later reduced, the electric truck maker said on Tuesday.

The decision, although non-binding, illustrates shareholders’ discontent about Nikola, once a high-flying company whose shares tanked over 80% from its peak partly due to ongoing probes by regulators and prosecutors.

“Nikola’s shareholders are effectively saying: ‘We don’t like what you did with exec comp last year, you need to do better in the future’,” said George S. Georgiev, a professor at Emory University School of Law​.

Trevor’s $159 million stock-based compensation was cut to $16.5 million under an agreement he signed with the company in September when he resigned, according to a footnote of Nikola’s filing.

The compensation, which includes salary, bonus and stock awards, was proposed to a total of six people, including chief executive officer and president Mark Russell with $159.2 million and Britton Worthen, chief legal officer with $79.6 million. The shareholders’ meeting took place on June 30.

Nikola and some of executives are facing a series of class action lawsuits, which allege they made false and/or misleading statements regarding Nikola’s business plan and prospects.