Being the world’s largest producer of gold is a mixed blessing. Barrick Gold of Toronto holds that distinction, having produced 6.25 million oz of the stuff in 2014. Yes, it’s great to be the biggest, but it also makes the company a lightning rod for detractors.
Barrick has been accused of human rights violations, environmental degradation, financial mismanagement, and worse.
Readers will remember that a year ago Barrick shareholders staged a revolt when they learned of the compensation awarded to the company’s executives. Barrick tweaked its compensation model, but that didn’t stop it from boosting chairman John Thornton’s pay by 36% last year.
Thornton earned almost $13 million in 2014, compared to $9.5 million in 2013.
The boost occurred in a year when Barrick shares fell about 35% in value, the price of gold weakened, and the company took a $2.84 billion loss in the last quarter of 2014.
Barrick also announced at the end of last week that it will be adding two new advisors to its international advisory board – John Baird and Newt Gingrich. Baird was until a few weeks ago Canada’s foreign minister, and a well-respected one at that. Gingrich is a former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. The new members join other political heavyweights including former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney on the 10-member board.
When a company holds the “world’s biggest” title, people will notice.
Late breaking: The Ottawa Citizen reported on Monday afternoon that Baird was actively lobbied by Barrick’s representatives during his mandate as foreign minister. Because their last contact was more than a year ago, Baird is not in conflict of interest by joining the gold miner.