Cheniere Scraps Stock Awards Plan Following Lawsuit

Cheniere Energy Inc., whose chief executive officer was paid more than any other in the U.S. last year, has pulled plans to issue more stock awards to executives following a shareholder lawsuit, according to court documents.

Cheniere, which delayed its annual meeting by three months following the legal challenge, said in a court filing that it would cut proposals from a shareholder ballot to add 30 million shares to the pool of awards available for executive bonuses. The natural gas export company, which has never generated an annual profit, granted CEO Charif Souki 6.3 million stock units valued at $133 million in 2013 as part of a $142 million compensation package.

The 30 million shares that Cheniere had proposed adding to the pool are valued at more than $2.19 billion, according to yesterday’s closing price of $73.

Cheniere, based in Houston, is on track to be the first company to export natural gas produced from the U.S. shale boom. The company said this week it had signed two new contracts to export natural gas from a terminal planned for Corpus Christi, Texas.

An investor alleged in the lawsuit filed May 29 in Delaware that a February 2013 vote allocating 25 million shares into a bonus pool, including 6 million awarded to Souki last year, was miscounted.

The claim led the company to postpone its annual meeting, now set for Sept. 11, by three months, according to a June 2 filing. Souki stands to lose 89 percent of his 2013 compensation if the shareholder lawsuit succeeds.

The case is In re Cheniere Energy Inc. Stockholders Litigation, CA9710, Delaware Chancery Court (Wilmington).

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