Bloomberg: CEO Charged With Choking Woman Garners Board Support, Not Rebuke
February 18, 2021
The scene described in the arrest warrant is disturbing. In the early hours of Oct. 5, a 46-year-old CEO shoved and began strangling a woman in her early twenties, knocking a phone out of her hand when she tried to call for help.
What the warrant doesn’t mention is that the accused assailant, David Smith, is the son of a billionaire, scion of a powerful North Carolina family and the chief executive officer of Sonic Automotive Inc., a public company that owns one of the largest car-dealership chains in the U.S.
A few weeks later on April 10, the board canceled performance-based stock grants for the Smiths and a small group of executives and replaced them with options, company filings show. Sonic shares have more than doubled since then, making CEO David Smith’s options worth about $11.2 million were he to exercise them today. That’s nearly three times what he would have earned had the CEO met his target for the original stock grants, according to Dayna Harris, a partner at executive compensation firm Farient Advisors.
“There was an opportunity for a huge windfall,” Harris said.
By Gabrielle Coppola and Anders Melin
About Dayna Harris
Partner, Farient Advisors, Los Angeles
Dayna has served as a consultant on executive and board compensation for two decades, designing incentive programs that align compensation with business strategy and create value for shareholders. Her experience includes advising boards and senior management of public and private companies across various industries. She works with management and boards to reach a consensus on program design that is effective within the context of a company’s organizational structure and situation.
Further, her incentive design work identifies the appropriate frameworks, performance measures, and approaches for goal setting. Before joining Farient, Dayna was a principal at Semler Brossy Consulting Group and held executive compensation consulting roles at Sibson & Company, SCA Consulting, and Mercer.
She frequently speaks on topics including pay and performance, disclosure, and regulatory compliance for the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD), WorldatWork, the National Association of Stock Plan Professionals (NASPP), the Council of Institutional Investors, and the Society of Corporate Governance Professionals. Dayna is a member of WorldatWork, NASPP, the Council of Institutional Investors, and NACD. For three years, Dayna was named to the NACD Directorship 100, the prestigious annual list of the most influential people in corporate governance and the boardroom. She holds both an MBA and a bachelor’s degree from San Diego State University.