Tyson Pays $1.5 Million to Settle With SEC Over Perks

Tyson Foods Inc. of Springdale said Thursday that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has agreed with Tyson's offer to pay $1.5 million to settle charges it did not properly disclose certain executive perquisites for former chairman Don Tyson.

"Our company has cooperated fully with the SEC in an effort to resolve this matter and are pleased to be moving forward," John Tyson, chairman and CEO of the meat processor, said in a news release. "We've also put additional controls and procedures in place to help ensure executive perquisites are being properly tracked and disclosed in the future."

Additionally, Don Tyson agreed to pay a $700,000 civil penalty to settle charges. And the SEC entered an order requiring the company to cease and desist from violating certain federal securities laws.

Tyson Foods said in March that the SEC was investigating benefits paid to some of its executives. In August, the company said the SEC was accusing it of filing proxy statements from 1997 to 2003 that failed to fully describe or disclose about $1.7 million in perquisites given to Don Tyson. It also said Tyson Foods failed to maintain adequate internal controls on the personal use of company assets.

Also in August, the company said its board reviewed the allegations and that Don Tyson voluntarily paid the company more than $1.5 million for some items that came under review.

The Wall Street Journal on Friday (sub. req'd.) called Don Tyson's perks "striking even in an era of lavish executive compensation."

The newspaper said the perks included more than $400,000 for personal use by him and his family and friends of company-owned homes in the English countryside and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; $20,000 for oriental rugs; $18,000 of antiques; $84,000 in lawn maintenance at five homes; an $8,000 horse, and other items. The company also paid Don Tyson $1.1 million to cover personal income-tax liability associated with the benefits, the newspaper said.

Don Tyson served as the company's CEO and chairman from 1967 to 1991, as its chairman from 1991 to 1995, and as its senior chairman from 1995 until his retirement in 2001. In a news release about the settlement, the company neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing, and noted the company's growth during Don Tyson's tenure.

Shares of Tyson (NYSE: TSN) were trading at $16.56 on Friday after closing at $16.74 on Thursday.