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HP gives shareholders broader voice

Hewlett-Packard stockholders will have more authority in deciding whether to award large severance packages to executives and whether to adopt a poison pill.

Hewlett-Packard on Monday said it will give shareholders a broader voice in deciding whether to award large severance packages to executives and whether to adopt programs to thwart unsolicited takeover attempts.

HP's board of directors said that under a new policy, the company will seek shareowner approval for future severance agreements that would give an executive more than 2.99 times his or her base salary plus a bonus. The company also said it will give shareholders more say in whether it puts in place a "poison pill," a program that allows a company to issue additional shares in order to prevent a takeover.

The move effectively adopts two resolutions passed by shareholders at an annual meeting in April. HP had said at the time that it would "duly consider" the proposals.

The company stopped short of fully accommodating shareholders' desires. The computing giant said it will submit a planned poison pill program to a shareowner vote "unless the board, exercising its fiduciary duties under Delaware law, determines that such a submission would not be in the interests of shareowners under the circumstances."

HP does not currently have a poison-pill plan, having dropped its most recent such plan in January.

Separately, the board approved an 8 cent per share dividend, to be payable Oct. 8 to shareholders of record as of Sept. 17.