The Australian Shareholders Association will be voting against the proposed issue of options by Australian Wealth Management to its managing director, Andrew Barnes, tomorrow, following the revelation last week that the options will vest as soon as the merger with Select Managed Funds is completed.

An ASA spokesperson said yesterday that the vote, at the AWM annual meeting in North Sydney tomorrow morning, followed the company’s confirmation last week that the 2.2 million share options for Barnes would vest after the merger and not at the different times set for other options to be issued under the company’s employee share scheme. The spokesman said that this meant that Barnes’ options would vest in only a few months time. The group would also vote against acceptance of the company’s ‘remuneration report’. The company announced on January 17 that it would issue about 3.3 million options to a total of 14 senior managers, subject to performance hurdles. AWM and Select then announced on January 19 that the boards of the two companies had agreed to a share-swap merger, which pushed both their share prices up by about 33 per cent. Prior to that, according to filings with the ASX, Barnes had bought 22,000 AWM shares on market on behalf of a family super fund. Last week, Investor Daily, an industry newsletter, said that the merger discussions between the two companies took place without the knowledge of the AWM managing director. AWM’s largest shareholder, Guinness Peat Group, led those discussions, the newsletter said. AWM is the spin-off wealth management business formerly owned by the Tower group. Its biggest component is the Bridges financial planning dealership. Select is the old SMF funds management group, started in Tasmania in the 1980s. Both firms listed last year. The shareholders’ group spokesman said, however, that it would vote in favour of a proposed increase in directors’ fees for AWM.

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