DEF 14A
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UNITED STATES
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
 
 
SCHEDULE 14A
Proxy Statement Pursuant to Section 14(a) of the
Securities Exchange Act of 1934
(Amendment No. )
 
 
Filed by the Registrant  ☒
Filed by a Party other than the Registrant  ☐
Check the appropriate box:
 
Preliminary Proxy Statement
 
Confidential, for Use of the Commission Only (as permitted by Rule
14a-6(e)(2))
 
Definitive Proxy Statement
 
Definitive Additional Materials
 
Soliciting Material under
§240.14a-12
AKEBIA THERAPEUTICS, INC.
(Name of Registrant as Specified In Its Charter)
n/a
(Name of Person(s) Filing Proxy Statement, if other than the Registrant)
Payment of Filing Fee (Check all boxes that apply):
 
No fee required
 
Fee paid previously with preliminary materials
 
Fee computed on table in exhibit required by Item 25(b) per Exchange Act Rules
14a-6(i)(1)
and
0-11
 
 
 


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LOGO

Akebia Therapeutics, Inc.

245 First Street

Cambridge, MA 02142

NOTICE OF 2023 ANNUAL MEETING OF STOCKHOLDERS

The 2023 Annual Meeting of Stockholders, or the Annual Meeting, of Akebia Therapeutics, Inc., or the Company or Akebia, will be held on Tuesday, June 6, 2023, at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time in a virtual meeting format via live webcast. The purposes of the meeting are as follows:

 

  1.

Elect three Class III directors, Adrian Adams, Michael Rogers and LeAnne M. Zumwalt, to serve until the 2026 annual meeting of stockholders and until their successors are duly elected and qualified, subject to their earlier death, resignation or removal;

 

  2.

Approve the Akebia Therapeutics, Inc. 2023 Stock Incentive Plan;

 

  3.

Hold an advisory vote on the compensation of Akebia’s named executive officers;

 

  4.

Ratify the appointment of Ernst & Young LLP as our independent registered public accounting firm for the fiscal year ending December 31, 2023; and

 

  5.

Transact such other business as may properly come before the Annual Meeting or at any and all adjournments or postponements thereof.

Stockholders are referred to the accompanying proxy statement for more detailed information with respect to the matters to be considered at the Annual Meeting. Our Board of Directors recommends that you vote “FOR” each of the Class III director nominees (Proposal 1) and “FOR” each of Proposals 2, 3 and 4.

Each outstanding share of our common stock, par value $0.00001 per share (Nasdaq: AKBA), or our Common Stock, entitles the holder of record as of 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time on April 18, 2023, referred to as the record date, to receive notice of, and to vote at, the Annual Meeting or any adjournment or postponement of the Annual Meeting.

You will be able to attend the Annual Meeting virtually, vote, submit questions and examine a list of the Company’s registered stockholders by visiting www.virtualshareholdermeeting.com/AKBA2023 and using your unique control number found on the proxy card. You will not be able to attend the Annual Meeting physically in person. If you have technical difficulties or trouble accessing the virtual meeting, there will be technicians ready to assist you. If you encounter any technical difficulties accessing the virtual meeting during the check-in or meeting time, please call the technical support number that will be posted on the virtual stockholder meeting log-in page.

We are mailing our stockholders a paper copy of our proxy materials, including a proxy card, on or about April 28, 2023. The proxy card contains instructions on how to access the documents and cast your vote via the Internet or by telephone.

Your vote is important. Whether or not you attend the Annual Meeting virtually, we urge you to vote your shares by following the instructions in the accompanying proxy statement and submitting your proxy by the Internet, telephone or by signing, dating and returning the proxy card in order to ensure the presence of a quorum. If you choose to attend the Annual Meeting, you may vote your shares during the Annual Meeting by following the instructions available on the meeting website at www.virtualshareholdermeeting.com/AKBA2023. If your shares are held by a bank, broker or other nominee, please refer to the materials provided by your bank, broker or other nominee for voting instructions. As always, we encourage you to vote your shares prior to the Annual Meeting.


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All stockholders are extended a cordial invitation to attend the Annual Meeting virtually.

 

  By Order of the Board of Directors,
 

LOGO

  John P. Butler
  President and Chief Executive Officer

Cambridge, Massachusetts

April 28, 2023

Important Notice Regarding the Availability of Proxy Materials for the Annual Meeting: The Notice of 2023 Annual Meeting of Stockholders, the Proxy Statement and our 2022 annual report are available at www.proxyvote.com.


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TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

     Page  

GENERAL INFORMATION

     1  

OVERVIEW OF PROPOSALS

     6  

PROPOSAL 1—ELECTION OF DIRECTORS

     6  

DIRECTOR BIOGRAPHIES

     7  

CORPORATE GOVERNANCE

     11  

DIRECTOR COMPENSATION

     20  

PROPOSAL 2—APPROVAL OF 2023 STOCK INCENTIVE PLAN

     23  

PROPOSAL 3—ADVISORY VOTE ON EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION

     39  

EXECUTIVE OFFICERS

     40  

EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION

     42  

COMPENSATION COMMITTEE INTERLOCKS AND INSIDER PARTICIPATION

     71  

PAY VERSUS PERFORMANCE

     72  

PROPOSAL 4—RATIFICATION OF SELECTION OF INDEPENDENT REGISTERED PUBLIC ACCOUNTING FIRM

     76  

AUDIT COMMITTEE REPORT

     78  

SECURITY OWNERSHIP OF CERTAIN BENEFICIAL OWNERS AND MANAGEMENT

     79  

DELINQUENT SECTION 16(a) REPORTS

     81  

CERTAIN RELATIONSHIPS AND RELATED PERSON TRANSACTIONS

     82  

GENERAL MATTERS

     84  

Appendix A: 2023 Stock Incentive Plan

     A-1  

 

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NOTE REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS

This Proxy Statement contains forward-looking statements that are being made pursuant to the provisions of the U.S. Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 with the intention of obtaining the benefits of the “safe harbor” provisions of that Act. All statements contained in this Proxy Statement other than statements of historical fact are forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements may be accompanied by words such as “anticipate,” “believe,” “build,” “can,” “contemplate,” “continue,” “could,” “should,” “designed,” “estimate,” “project,” “expect,” “forecast,” “future,” “goal,” “intend,” “likely,” “may,” “plan,” “possible,” “potential,” “predict,” “strategy,” “seek,” “target,” “will,” “would,” and other words and terms of similar meaning, but the absence of these words does not necessarily mean that a statement is not forward-looking. These forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, statements about: our expectations with respect to the development of vadadustat, if any, following our receipt of a complete response letter to our new drug application for vadadustat for the treatment of anemia due to chronic kidney disease in adult patients; that delivering value broadly to the kidney community, as well as others who may benefit from our medicines, will result in delivering value for stockholders; and our pipeline and portfolio, including its potential, and our related research and development activities.

Any or all of these forward-looking statements in this Proxy Statement may turn out to be inaccurate. These forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties, including those that are discussed in our Annual Report on Form 10-K as filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on March 10, 2023 under the heading “Risk Factor Summary,” and the risk factors detailed further in Part I, Item 1A. “Risk Factors” included in our Annual Report on Form 10-K and in our Securities and Exchange Commission reports filed after this Proxy Statement, that could cause our actual results, financial condition, performance or achievements to be materially different from those indicated in these forward-looking statements. Given these risks and uncertainties, you should not place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this Proxy Statement. Except as required by law, we assume no obligation to publicly update or revise these forward-looking statements for any reason. Unless otherwise stated, our forward-looking statements do not reflect the potential impact of any future acquisitions, mergers, dispositions, joint ventures or investments we may make.

 

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Akebia Therapeutics, Inc.

245 First Street

Cambridge, MA 02142

PROXY STATEMENT FOR 2023 ANNUAL MEETING OF STOCKHOLDERS

GENERAL INFORMATION

This Proxy Statement, along with the accompanying Notice of 2023 Annual Meeting of Stockholders, contains information about the 2023 Annual Meeting of Stockholders of Akebia Therapeutics, Inc., or the Annual Meeting, including any adjournments or postponements thereof. In this Proxy Statement, we refer to Akebia Therapeutics, Inc. as “Akebia,” “the Company,” “we” or “us.”

We are holding the Annual Meeting at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time, on Tuesday, June 6, 2023. The Annual Meeting will be a virtual meeting via live webcast. You will be able to attend the Annual Meeting, vote and submit your questions during the Annual Meeting by visiting www.virtualshareholdermeeting.com/AKBA2023 and entering the control number included on the proxy card you receive.

This Proxy Statement relates to the solicitation of proxies by our Board of Directors for use at the Annual Meeting.

Who is soliciting my proxy?

The Board of Directors, or the Board, of Akebia is soliciting your proxy to vote at the Annual Meeting, to be held virtually via live webcast on Tuesday, June 6, 2023 at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time, and any adjournments thereof. This Proxy Statement and the accompanying Notice of 2023 Annual Meeting of Stockholders summarizes the purposes of the Annual Meeting and the information you need to know to vote at the Annual Meeting.

Why is the Company holding a virtual Annual Meeting?

Our Annual Meeting will be held in a virtual meeting format only. You will not be able to attend the Annual Meeting in person physically. We believe that hosting a virtual meeting will facilitate stockholder attendance and participation at our Annual Meeting by enabling stockholders to participate remotely from any location. We have designed the virtual Annual Meeting to provide the same rights and opportunities to participate as stockholders would have at an in-person meeting, including the right to vote and ask questions through the virtual meeting platform.

How do I virtually attend the Annual Meeting?

We will host the Annual Meeting online via live webcast. To attend the Annual Meeting, go to www.virtualshareholdermeeting.com/AKBA2023 shortly before the Annual Meeting time, and follow the instructions for downloading the webcast. We encourage you to access the meeting prior to the start time. Online check-in will begin at 9:45 a.m. Eastern Time, and you should allow ample time to test your computer and for the check-in procedures. You need not attend the Annual Meeting in order to vote.

What happens if there are technical difficulties during the Annual Meeting?

We will have technicians ready to assist you with any technical difficulties you may have accessing the Annual Meeting, voting at the Annual Meeting or submitting questions at the Annual Meeting. If you encounter any difficulties accessing the virtual meeting website, please call the technical support number that will be posted on the Annual Meeting log-in page.

 

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When will this Proxy Statement and the accompanying materials be made available to stockholders?

We intend to commence distribution of the proxy materials to all stockholders entitled to vote at the Annual Meeting on or about April 28, 2023. The proxy materials, including the Notice of 2023 Annual Meeting of Stockholders, the accompanying proxy card, this Proxy Statement and the 2022 annual report, or the Annual Report, will be made available to stockholders on the Internet on the same date. Please note that, while our proxy materials are available at the website referenced in this Proxy Statement, and the Proxy Statement and Annual Report are available on our website, no information contained on such website is incorporated by reference in or considered to be a part of this document.

When is the record date for the Annual Meeting?

The Board of Directors fixed the record date for the Annual Meeting as of 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time on April 18, 2023, referred to as the record date. Only stockholders who owned our common stock, par value $0.00001 per share, or our Common Stock, as of 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time on April 18, 2023 are entitled to vote at the Annual Meeting.

Why is the Company soliciting my vote?

The Board of Directors is soliciting your vote for the Annual Meeting because you owned shares of our Common Stock, as of 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time on the record date. We sent you by mail this Proxy Statement, the Notice of 2023 Annual Meeting of Stockholders, the proxy card and a copy of our Annual Report.

How many votes can be cast by all stockholders?

A total of 185,928,121 shares of Common Stock of the Company were outstanding on April 18, 2023 and are entitled to be voted at the Annual Meeting. Each share of Common Stock is entitled to one vote on each matter properly presented at the Annual Meeting.

Who may attend the Annual Meeting?

Only stockholders as of the record date, their proxy holders and guests invited by the Company may attend the Annual Meeting virtually by accessing www.virtualshareholdermeeting.com/AKBA2023 and entering the unique control number found on the proxy card.

If your shares are held by a bank, broker or other nominee, you can attend the Annual Meeting by contacting the bank, broker or other nominee who holds your shares to obtain a broker’s proxy card and using the control number found on the broker’s proxy card.

How do I vote?

If you are a stockholder of record and your shares are registered directly in your name, you may vote:

 

   

By Internet. You may vote by proxy via the Internet at www.proxyvote.com by following the instructions provided on the proxy card.

 

   

By Telephone. If you live in the United States or Canada, you may vote by proxy by calling toll-free 1-800-690-6903 and by following the instructions provided on the proxy card. You must have the control number that is on the proxy card when voting.

 

   

By Mail. Complete and mail your proxy card, in the postage prepaid envelope you receive, to Vote Processing, c/o Broadridge, 51 Mercedes Way, Edgewood, NY 11717. Your proxy will be voted in accordance with your instructions. If you sign and return the enclosed proxy but do not specify how you want your shares voted, they will be voted in accordance with the recommendations of the Board

 

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of Directors and will be voted according to the discretion of the named proxy holders on the proxy card upon any other business that may properly be brought before the Annual Meeting and at all adjournments and postponements thereof.

 

   

At the Virtual Annual Meeting. The Annual Meeting will be held entirely online. To participate in the Annual Meeting, you will need the control number included on the proxy card. The Annual Meeting webcast will begin promptly at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time. Online check-in will begin at 9:45 a.m. Eastern Time, and you should allow ample time for the check-in procedures.

If your shares of Common Stock are held by a bank, broker or other nominee, you may vote:

 

   

By Internet or by Telephone. You will receive instructions from your bank, broker or other nominee if you are permitted to vote by Internet or telephone.

 

   

By Mail. You will receive instructions from your bank, broker or other nominee explaining how to vote your shares by mail.

 

   

At the Virtual Annual Meeting. The Annual Meeting will be held entirely online. To participate in the Annual Meeting, you will need to contact the bank, broker or other nominee who holds your shares to obtain a broker’s proxy card and use the control number found on the broker’s proxy card. The Annual Meeting webcast will begin promptly at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time. Online check-in will begin at 9:45 a.m. Eastern Time, and you should allow ample time for the check-in procedures.

Will my shares be voted if I do not return my proxy?

If your shares are registered directly in your name, your shares will not be voted if you do not vote over the Internet, by telephone, by returning your proxy card or virtually at the Annual Meeting.

If your shares are owned in “street name” through a bank, broker or other nominee, stock exchange rules allow your bank, broker or other nominee to vote on your behalf for certain matters if you do not provide voting instructions with respect to your shares. The election of the three Class III directors (Proposal 1), the approval of the Akebia Therapeutics, Inc. 2023 Stock Incentive Plan (Proposal 2) and the advisory vote on executive compensation (Proposal 3) are matters on which brokers do not have discretionary voting authority under applicable stock exchange rules. Accordingly, in the absence of proper voting instructions from you on those matters, the broker will not vote your shares (which is referred to as a broker non-vote). Broker non-votes are shares represented at the Annual Meeting held by banks, brokers or other nominees for which instructions have not been received from the beneficial owners or persons entitled to vote such shares and such banks, brokers or other nominees do not have discretionary voting power to vote such shares.

The proposal to ratify the selection of Ernst & Young LLP as the Company’s independent registered public accounting firm for the fiscal year ending December 31, 2023 (Proposal 4) is a proposal on which banks, brokers or other nominees are expected to have discretionary voting authority under applicable stock exchange rules. If they exercise this discretionary authority, no broker non-votes are expected to occur in connection with Proposal 4.

We encourage you to vote or to provide voting instructions to your bank, broker or other nominee. This ensures that your shares will be voted at the Annual Meeting according to your instructions.

 

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How many votes are required for approval of different matters and what are the Board of Directors’ recommendations on how to vote my shares?

 

Proposal

 

Voting
Options

 

Votes
Required

 

Effect of
Abstentions

 

Effect of
Broker
Non-Votes

 

Board
Recommendations

Election of Three Class III Directors (Proposal 1)

 

For All/
Withhold All/

For All
Except

  Plurality of votes cast (1)   No effect   No effect   FOR ALL

Approval of the Akebia Therapeutics, Inc. 2023 Stock Incentive Plan
(Proposal 2)

  For/Against/
Abstain
  Majority of votes cast   No effect   No effect   FOR

Advisory Vote on Compensation of Named Executive Officers
(Proposal 3)

  For/Against/
Abstain
  Majority of votes cast (2)   No effect   No effect   FOR

Ratification of Selection of Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm (Proposal 4)

  For/Against/
Abstain
  Majority of votes cast   No effect   No effect
(3)
  FOR

 

(1)

A vote to withhold will have no effect on the outcome of Proposal 1.

(2)

As an advisory vote, this proposal is not binding. The Board of Directors will take into consideration the outcome of this vote in determining executive compensation.

(3)

As noted above, Proposal 4 is a proposal on which banks, brokers or other nominees are expected to have discretionary voting authority under applicable stock exchange rules. If they exercise this discretionary authority, no broker non-votes are expected to occur in connection with Proposal 4.

Who pays the cost of soliciting proxies?

The Company will pay the cost of solicitation of proxies. This includes the charges and expenses of brokerage firms and other vendors for forwarding solicitation material to beneficial owners of our outstanding Common Stock. The Company may solicit proxies by mail, personal interview, telephone or via the Internet through its officers, directors and other management employees, who will receive no additional compensation for their services. We may also utilize the assistance of third parties in connection with our proxy solicitation efforts, and we would compensate such third parties for their efforts. We have engaged one such third party, Mackenzie Partners, Inc., to assist in the solicitation of proxies and provide related advice and informational support, for services fees of up to $8,500 and the reimbursement of certain expenses.

Can I change or revoke my vote?

If you are a stockholder of record, you may change or revoke your proxy at any time before it is voted at the Annual Meeting by notifying the Corporate Secretary in writing stating that you would like to revoke your proxy of a particular date, by returning a signed proxy with a later date before the Annual Meeting, by transmitting a subsequent vote over the Internet by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on June 5, 2023, by transmitting a subsequent vote by telephone by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on June 5, 2023, or by attending the Annual Meeting and voting online during the Annual Meeting. Virtually attending the Annual Meeting alone, without voting online during the Annual Meeting, will not revoke your Internet vote, telephone vote or proxy submitted by mail, as the case may be.

If your stock is held by a bank, broker or other nominee, you must contact your bank, broker or other nominee for instructions as to how to change your vote.

 

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How is a quorum reached?

The presence, in person or by proxy, of holders of at least a majority of the total number of outstanding shares entitled to vote is necessary to constitute a quorum for the transaction of business at the Annual Meeting. Shares present during the Annual Meeting will be considered shares of Common Stock represented in person or by proxy at the Annual Meeting. Abstentions and broker non-votes will be counted for purposes of determining whether a quorum is present for the transaction of business at the Annual Meeting.

Could other matters be decided at the Annual Meeting?

The Company does not know of any other matters that may be presented for action at the Annual Meeting. Under our Second Amended and Restated Bylaws, or our Bylaws, the deadline for stockholders to notify us of any proposals or director nominations to be presented at the Annual Meeting has passed. Should any other business come before the Annual Meeting, the persons named in the accompanying proxy will have discretionary authority to vote the shares represented by such proxies in accordance with their best judgment. If you hold shares through a bank, broker or other nominee as described above, they will not be able to vote your shares on any other business that comes before the Annual Meeting unless they receive instructions from you with respect to such matter.

What happens if the Annual Meeting is postponed or adjourned?

Your proxy may be voted at the postponed or adjourned meeting. You will still be able to change your proxy until it is voted as provided in the section titled “Can I change or revoke my vote” above. If the Annual Meeting is adjourned or postponed for any reason, at any subsequent reconvening of the Annual Meeting your proxy will be voted in the same manner as it would have been voted at the original convening of the Annual Meeting unless you withdraw or revoke your proxy.

What does it mean if I receive more than one proxy card or voting instruction form?

If you receive more than one proxy card or voting instruction form, it may be because you have multiple accounts at the transfer agent or with banks, brokers or other nominees. Please complete and return all proxy cards or voting instruction forms to ensure that all of your shares are voted.

Who should I call if I have any additional questions?

If you hold your shares directly, please call Corporate Secretary at (617) 871-2098. If your shares are held by a bank, broker or other nominee, please call the telephone number provided on your voting instruction form or contact your bank, broker or nominee holder directly.

Can I elect to receive electronic delivery of the Company’s proxy materials?

Most stockholders who previously elected to receive printed copies of our proxy materials can elect to view future proxy materials over the Internet instead of receiving paper copies in the mail. You can choose this option and access the information you need on a more timely basis, while reducing the environmental impact and lowering the costs of printing and distributing our proxy materials.

Where can I find the voting results?

We expect to announce the preliminary voting results at the Annual Meeting. The final voting results will be tallied by the inspector of election and published in a Current Report on Form 8-K, which we are required to file with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, or the SEC, within four business days following the Annual Meeting.

 

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OVERVIEW OF PROPOSALS

This Proxy Statement contains four proposals requiring stockholder action. Proposal 1 requests the election of three directors to the Board of Directors. Proposal 2 requests approval of the Akebia Therapeutics, Inc. 2023 Stock Incentive Plan. Proposal 3 requests approval, on an advisory basis, of the compensation of our named executive officers. Proposal 4 requests the ratification of the appointment of Ernst & Young LLP as our independent registered public accounting firm for the fiscal year ending December 31, 2023. All proposals are discussed in more detail in the pages that follow.

PROPOSAL 1—ELECTION OF DIRECTORS

The Board of Directors currently consists of eight members and is divided into three classes. One class is elected each year at the annual meeting of stockholders for a term of three years. Vacancies on the Board of Directors are filled exclusively by the affirmative vote of a majority of the remaining directors, even if less than a quorum is present, and not by stockholders. A director elected by the Board of Directors to fill a vacancy in a class shall be elected for the unexpired term of his or her predecessor in office and until the director’s successor is duly elected and qualified, or until his or her earlier death, resignation or removal.

The terms of the Class III directors are scheduled to expire on the date of the Annual Meeting. Based on the recommendation of the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee of the Board of Directors, the Board of Directors’ nominees for election by the stockholders as the Class III directors are three current Class III members: Adrian Adams, Michael Rogers and LeAnne M. Zumwalt. If elected, each Class III nominee will serve as a director until the 2026 annual meeting of stockholders and until his or her successor is duly elected and qualified, or until his or her earlier death, resignation or removal.

It is intended that the proxy in the form presented will be voted, unless otherwise indicated, for the election of the Class III director nominees to the Board of Directors. The Company has no reason to believe that any of the nominees will be unable to serve. In the event that one or more nominees is unexpectedly not available to serve, proxies may be voted for another person nominated as a substitute by the Board of Directors, or the Board of Directors may reduce the number of directors to be elected at the Annual Meeting.

Nominees for Directors

The names of the nominees for Class III directors and certain information about each nominee are set forth below.

 

Name

  

Positions and Offices Held with

Akebia Therapeutics, Inc.

   Director
Since
     Age  

Adrian Adams

   Director (Class III), Chairperson      2018        72  

Michael Rogers

   Director (Class III)      2018        63  

LeAnne M. Zumwalt

   Director (Class III)      2021        64  

The three nominees for director with the highest number of affirmative votes will be elected as directors. Unless you give contrary instructions, shares represented by proxies will be voted for the election of the three nominees listed above as director nominees. Biographical information relating to each nominee for election as director and each continuing director is shown below. The Company believes that each director meets the qualifications established by the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee of our Board of Directors.

At the Annual Meeting, stockholders will be asked to consider the election of Ms. Zumwalt who has been nominated for election as a director for the first time. Ms. Zumwalt was initially recommended by the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee.

THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS UNANIMOUSLY RECOMMENDS THAT YOU VOTE “FOR” EACH OF THESE NOMINEES FOR DIRECTOR

(PROPOSAL 1 ON YOUR PROXY CARD)

 

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DIRECTOR BIOGRAPHIES

The biographical information about the nominees for director is set forth below.

Class III Director Nominees

Adrian Adams has served as a member of our Board of Directors since completion of the merger with Keryx Biopharmaceuticals, Inc., or Keryx, in December 2018. Since January 2020, Mr. Adams has served as Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the board of Impel Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a public biotechnology company. From February 2016 to January 2019, Mr. Adams served as Chief Executive Officer of Aralez Pharmaceuticals Inc., or Aralez, a pharmaceutical company that focused on the development, acquisition, and commercialization of cardiovascular, pain and other therapies and was a member of the Aralez board of directors from February 2016 to March 2019. From May 2015 to February 2016, Mr. Adams was the Chief Executive Officer and served on the board of directors of POZEN, Inc., a pharmaceutical company which was combined with Tribute Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc. to become Aralez Pharmaceuticals Inc. in 2016. In August 2018, Aralez voluntarily commenced restructuring proceedings in Canadian Court and its U.S.-based subsidiaries, including POZEN, Inc., filed voluntary petitions for relief under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. Previously, Mr. Adams served as Chief Executive Officer, President and a director of Auxilium Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a specialty biopharmaceutical company, from December 2011 until January 2015, when it was acquired by Endo International plc. Prior to these roles, Mr. Adams served as Chief Executive Officer at several leading specialty pharmaceutical companies including Kos Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Sepracor, Inc., Inspire Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Neurologix, Inc. Mr. Adams has also held general management and senior international and national marketing positions at Novartis, SmithKline Beecham and Imperial Chemical Industries (now part of AstraZeneca). Mr. Adams also currently serves as the Chairman of the board of directors at AcelRx Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Mr. Adams graduated from the Royal Institute of Chemistry at Salford University. We believe that Mr. Adams is qualified to serve on our Board of Directors due to his more than 30 years of experience in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, including numerous roles as Chief Executive Officer.

Michael Rogers has served as a member of our Board of Directors since completion of the merger with Keryx in December 2018. He has served as Chief Financial Officer of Apnimed, Inc., or Apnimed, a clinical stage pharmaceutical company focused on developing oral medicines to treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and related disorders, since November 2020. Prior to Apnimed, he served as Chief Financial Officer of Aerpio Pharmaceuticals, Inc., or Aerpio, a pharmaceutical company that merged with Aadi BioScience, Inc., from November 2017 until October 2019. Prior to Aerpio, Mr. Rogers was Chief Financial Officer of Acorda Therapeutics, Inc. a public biotechnology company developing and commercializing therapies to treat neurological disorders, from October 2013 to October 2016. From 1999 to 2009, Mr. Rogers was the Chief Financial Officer of Indevus Pharmaceuticals, Inc. until the company’s sale to Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inc. He also served as Chief Financial Officer at BG Medicine, Inc. Advanced Health Corporation and Autoimmune Inc. Prior to his roles as Chief Financial Officer, Mr. Rogers was an investment banker at Lehman Brothers and PaineWebber, where he focused on life sciences companies. Mr. Rogers currently serves on the board of directors of Aravive, Inc. Mr. Rogers served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Keryx from September 2017 until completion of the merger, and a member of the board of directors of Keryx from March 2016 until completion of the merger. He previously served on the board of directors for EyePoint Pharmaceuticals, Inc., formerly pSivida Corp., from July 2005 to June 2019. Mr. Rogers received his B.A. from Union College and an M.B.A. from the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. We believe that Mr. Rogers is qualified to serve on our Board of Directors due to his more than 25 years of financial experience and executive leadership in the biotechnology industry.

LeAnne M. Zumwalt has served as a member of our Board of Directors since February 2021. From January 2000 to January 2021, Ms. Zumwalt served in various roles at DaVita Inc., or DaVita, one of the largest providers of kidney care services in the United States. From July 2011 to January 2021, Ms. Zumwalt served as DaVita’s Group Vice President, Government Affairs, and from November 2007 to June 2020 also led DaVita’s

 

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purchasing operations. From January 2000 to July 2011, Ms. Zumwalt served as a Vice President of DaVita in many capacities, including as Vice President, Investor Relations from January 2000 to October 2009. From 1997 to 1999, Ms. Zumwalt served as the Chief Financial Officer of Vivra Specialty Partners, Inc., a privately held healthcare service and technology firm. From 1991 to 1997, Ms. Zumwalt held various executive positions, including Chief Financial Officer, at Vivra Incorporated, a publicly held provider of renal dialysis services and other healthcare services. Prior to joining Vivra Incorporated, Ms. Zumwalt was a Senior Manager at Ernst & Young LLP. From July 2018 to December 2020, Ms. Zumwalt served on the board of directors of Adeptus Health Inc., a privately held healthcare services company, and from November 2001 to September 2017, Ms. Zumwalt served on the board of directors of The Advisory Board Company, which provided advice and best practices using research, technology, and consulting to improve healthcare and education institution performance. Ms. Zumwalt received her B.A. in Business Administration from Pacific Union College. We believe that Ms. Zumwalt is qualified to serve on our Board of Directors due to her extensive knowledge and expertise in the U.S. dialysis market.

Current Directors Not Standing for Election at the Annual Meeting

Set forth below is the biographical information for the members of the Board of Directors who are not standing for re-election at the Annual Meeting and whose terms of office will continue after the Annual Meeting.

 

Name

   Positions and Offices
Held with Akebia
Therapeutics, Inc.
   Director
Since
     Class and Year
in Which Term
Will Expire
     Age  

John P. Butler

   Director, President and
Chief Executive Officer
     2013        Class II—2025        58  

Ronald E. Frieson

   Director      2021        Class I—2024        64  

Steven C. Gilman, Ph.D.

   Director      2018        Class I—2024        70  

Cynthia Smith

   Director      2018        Class I—2024        54  

Myles Wolf, M.D., M.M.Sc.

   Director      2020        Class II—2025        52  

Class I Directors

Ron Frieson has served as a member of our Board of Directors since November 2021. Since July 2020, Mr. Frieson has served as the Chief Operating Officer of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, or CHOA, a non-profit corporation whose mission focuses on bettering all aspects of children’s healthcare. Prior to serving as Chief Operating Officer, from June 2015 to July 2020, Mr. Frieson served as President, Foundation and External Affairs of CHOA. From June 2008 to May 2015, Mr. Frieson served as Chief Public Policy Officer of CHOA. Prior to CHOA, Mr. Frieson served as Interim President and Chief Executive Officer of the Atlanta Urban League. Mr. Frieson also spent many years at BellSouth (acquired by AT&T Inc. in 2006) in roles of increasing responsibility, most recently serving as President, Georgia Operations. Additionally, Mr. Frieson was the first Chief Diversity Officer for BellSouth. Mr. Frieson currently serves as an advisory board member or Truist Bank Atlanta. Mr. Frieson also serves on the Board of Trustees of Colorado Technical University and is the Chair of The University of Tennessee Foundation board. He previously served as a board member for Children’s Miracle Network and Zoo Atlanta. In addition, Mr. Frieson served on the Board of Trustees of the American Kidney Fund from 2006 to 2012. Mr. Frieson holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Tennessee and an MBA in Information Systems from Georgia State University. We believe that Mr. Frieson is qualified to serve on our Board of Directors due to his more than ten years of experience immersed in healthcare systems operations, his experience driving improved patient outcomes and enabling access to healthcare for underserved populations and his work on diversity initiatives.

Steven C. Gilman, Ph.D., has served as a member of our Board of Directors since the merger with Keryx in December 2018. Dr. Gilman previously served as Chairman of the board of directors and Chief Executive Officer of ContraFect Corporation, a public clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on the discovery and development of protein and antibody therapeutics for life-threatening, drug-resistant infectious diseases, from

 

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July 2016 to April 2019. From February 2008 until January 2015, Dr. Gilman served as Executive Vice President, Research & Development and Chief Scientific Officer of Cubist Pharmaceuticals, a biopharmaceutical company developing antibiotics, until its acquisition by Merck & Co. Prior to joining Cubist, he served as Chairman of the board of directors and Chief Executive Officer of ActivBiotics, Inc., a privately held biopharmaceutical company, from 2004 to 2008. Previously, Dr. Gilman worked at Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Inc., or Millennium, where he held a number of senior leadership roles including Vice President and General Manager of Inflammation. Prior to Millennium, he was group director at Pfizer Global Research and Development, where he was responsible for drug discovery of several therapeutic areas, including immunology and antibacterials. Dr. Gilman has also held scientific, business, and academic appointments at Wyeth, Cytogen Corporation, Temple Medical School, and Connecticut College. He currently serves on the boards of directors of Vericel Corporation, SCYNEXIS, Inc., and ContraFect Corporation. Dr. Gilman is also a board member of the Lakes Environmental Association. Dr. Gilman served as a member of the board of directors of Keryx from March 2016 until completion of the merger. He is a past member of the board of directors of Momenta Pharmaceuticals, Inc., which was acquired by Johnson & Johnson in October 2020, the Massachusetts Biotechnology Association, the Pennsylvania State University Biotechnology Advisory Board, and the Northeastern University Drug Discovery Advisory Board. Dr. Gilman received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Microbiology from Pennsylvania State University, his post-doctoral training at Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation and his B.A. in Microbiology from Miami University of Ohio. He has authored over 60 publications and is an inventor of seven patents. We believe that Dr. Gilman is qualified to serve on our Board of Directors due to his more than 29 years of scientific and development experience in the healthcare industry, including in senior leadership roles.

Cynthia Smith has served as a member of our Board of Directors since August 2018. Since January 2017, she has consulted as a strategic advisor for biotechnology companies. Previously, she served as Chief Commercial Officer and a member of the Executive Committee of ZS Pharma, Inc., a specialty pharmaceutical company developing therapies for treatment of hyperkalemia and liver diseases, from 2013 to 2016, where she led efforts to transition the company from a development stage company to a commercial enterprise. ZS Pharma, Inc., or ZS Pharma, was acquired by AstraZeneca in 2015. Prior to ZS Pharma, Ms. Smith served as Vice President, Market Access and Commercial Development at Affymax, Inc., from 2008 to 2013. From 2000 to 2008, she held various senior leadership positions in market access, corporate strategy, government relations and external affairs at Merck & Co. Before beginning her career in the biopharmaceutical industry, Ms. Smith served as a healthcare policy analyst in the Office of Management and Budget at the White House from 1995 to 2000. Ms. Smith currently serves on the boards of directors of Protara Therapeutics, Inc., Spero Therapeutics, Inc., Agios Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and the French-American Foundation, and she served on the board of directors of Nivalis Therapeutics, Inc. from November 2016 to July 2017 and of Dicerna Pharmaceuticals, Inc. from August 2018 until its acquisition by Novo Nordisk A/S in 2021. Ms. Smith earned a B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, an M.B.A. from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and an M.S. in Public Policy from the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University. We believe that Ms. Smith is qualified to serve on our Board of Directors due to her more than 21 years of broad leadership experience within the biopharmaceutical industry.

Class II Directors

John P. Butler has served as a member of our Board of Directors since July 2013 and was appointed as the President and Chief Executive Officer of Akebia in September 2013. Prior to joining Akebia, from 2011 until 2013, Mr. Butler served as the Chief Executive Officer of Inspiration Biopharmaceuticals, Inc. Mr. Butler led the transactions that resulted in this sale. From 1997 to 2011, Mr. Butler held various positions at Genzyme Corporation, now Sanofi Genzyme, or Genzyme, most recently serving as President of the company’s rare genetic diseases business. From 2002 until 2010, Mr. Butler led Genzyme’s renal division. Prior to his work at Genzyme, Mr. Butler held sales and marketing positions at Amgen Inc. and Hoffmann-La Roche. Mr. Butler currently serves on the board of directors of Zynerba Pharmaceuticals, Inc. From 2013 to 2016, Mr. Butler served on the board of directors of Relypsa, Inc. From 2015 to 2017, Mr. Butler served on the Board of Directors of

 

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Keryx and was Chairman of Keryx’s Board of Directors from 2016 to 2017. Mr. Butler is Chair of Kidney Care Partners and formerly served as a Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the American Kidney Fund. Mr. Butler received a B.A. in chemistry from Manhattan College and an M.B.A. degree from Baruch College, City University of New York. We believe that Mr. Butler is qualified to serve on our Board of Directors due to his industry experience in the biotechnology sector, particularly his experience working in the kidney disease area.

Myles Wolf, M.D., M.M.Sc., has served as a member of our Board of Directors since April 2020. Dr. Wolf has significant experience advising biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and diagnostic firms on overall strategy, target identification, validation, and clinical drug development. He has served on standing scientific advisory boards for Akebia and Keryx. Since August 2016, Dr. Wolf has served as Chief of the Division of Nephrology and a Professor of Medicine at Duke University School of Medicine. Since 2002, Dr. Wolf’s research has been supported by grants from the American Heart Association, National Kidney Foundation, American Society of Nephrology, and National Institutes of Health. The focus of his patient-oriented, epidemiological and basic laboratory research is disordered mineral metabolism across the spectrum of chronic kidney disease, including dialysis, kidney transplantation and earlier stages. Dr. Wolf’s research has been published in leading medical journals, including The New England Journal of Medicine, The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), The Journal of Clinical Investigation, Circulation, Cell Metabolism, Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, and Kidney International, among others. Dr. Wolf has served on the editorial boards for Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, Seminars in Nephrology, and Nature Reviews Nephrology, and as Editor of the “Mineral Metabolism” section of Current Opinion in Nephrology and Hypertension. In 2011, Dr. Wolf was elected to the American Society of Clinical Investigation and in 2017, he was elected to the Association of American Physicians. Dr. Wolf has been the recipient of several teaching, mentoring and research awards. Dr. Wolf earned his B.A. in Biology from Johns Hopkins University, his M.D. from the State University of New York, Downstate, and his Master of Medical Sciences in Clinical and Physiological Investigation from Harvard Medical School. Dr. Wolf completed his internship and residency, and a fellowship in nephrology, at the Massachusetts General Hospital. Prior to joining Duke University in 2016, Dr. Wolf held faculty, leadership and administrative positions at Harvard Medical School, the University of Miami and Northwestern University. We believe that Dr. Wolf is qualified to serve on our Board of Directors due to his significant experience advising biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and diagnostic firms on overall strategy, target identification, validation, and clinical drug development.

 

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CORPORATE GOVERNANCE

Board Composition and Structure

Our Ninth Amended and Restated Certificate of Incorporation, as amended, or our Charter, states that the number of directors shall be fixed exclusively by our Board of Directors. Each director holds office until his or her successor is duly elected and qualified or until his or her death, resignation or removal. Our Charter provides that our directors may be removed only for cause by the affirmative vote of the holders of at least 75% of the voting power of the outstanding shares of capital stock of the Company entitled to vote generally in the election of directors, voting together as a single class, at a meeting of the stockholders called for that purpose. Any vacancy on the Board of Directors, including a vacancy that results from an increase in the number of directors, may be filled by a vote of the majority of the directors then in office, even if less than a quorum.

Our Charter provides that our Board of Directors is divided into three classes of directors, with the classes as nearly equal in number as possible. Each of our directors previously identified serves in the class indicated. Subject to any earlier resignation or removal in accordance with the terms of our Charter and our Bylaws, our Class I directors will serve until the 2024 annual meeting of stockholders; our Class II directors will serve until the 2025 annual meeting of stockholders; and, if elected, our Class III directors will serve until the 2026 annual meeting of stockholders. Any additional directorships resulting from an increase in the number of directors will be apportioned by our Board of Directors among the three classes.

Director Nomination Process

The Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee recommends, and the Board of Directors nominates, candidates to stand for election as directors. While we do not have a formal policy on diversity, the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee proactively seeks nominees with a broad diversity of experience, professions, skills, gender, race, national origin and backgrounds and considers such factors in evaluating prospective nominees. Our Corporate Governance Guidelines specifically provide that the Board of Directors considers personal diversity, including age, sex, gender, ethnic and racial diversity, an additional benefit to the Board of Directors as a whole. The Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee does not assign specific weights to particular criteria and no particular trait is a prerequisite for each prospective nominee. We believe that the backgrounds and qualifications of our directors, considered as a group, should provide a composite mix of experience, knowledge and abilities that will allow the Board of Directors to fulfill its responsibilities. Directors should possess strong personal and professional ethics, integrity and values; be business savvy and genuinely interested in the Company; and be committed to representing the long-term interests of our stockholders. The Board of Directors is intended to encompass a range of talents, ages, skills, diversity, and expertise sufficient to provide sound and prudent oversight with respect to the operations and interests of the business. Nominees are not discriminated against on the basis of race, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, disability or any other basis proscribed by law. The membership criteria applicable to our Board of Directors are set forth in the Company’s Corporate Governance Guidelines, and the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee will consider such criteria in the context of the existing composition and needs of the Board of Directors and its committees.

Evaluation of Director Candidates

The Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee will make a preliminary review of a prospective candidate’s background, career experience and qualifications based on available information. If a consensus is reached by the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee that a particular candidate would likely contribute positively to the Board of Directors’ mix of skills and experiences, the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee will conduct interviews with the candidate and may invite other members of the Board of Directors or executives to interview the candidate to assess the candidate’s overall qualifications. The Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee will consider the candidate and make a recommendation to the full Board of Directors as to whether the candidate should be nominated for election.

 

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Stockholder Recommendations for Director Nominees

The Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee does not have a written policy regarding director candidates recommended by stockholders but has determined that its practice is to consider candidates proposed by stockholders if made in accordance with the requirements set forth in our Charter and our Bylaws. The Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee will consider all candidates recommended by stockholders who comply with the foregoing procedures and satisfy the minimum qualifications for director nominees and have the attributes described in our Corporate Governance Guidelines. Our Bylaws provide that for stockholder nominations to the Board of Directors to be considered at an annual meeting of stockholders, the stockholder must have given timely notice thereof in writing to the Corporate Secretary and followed the procedures described below under “General Matters—Stockholder Proposals and Nominations.

Director Independence

Under Nasdaq Listing Rule 5605, a majority of a listed company’s Board of Directors must consist of independent directors. In addition, the Nasdaq Listing Rules require that, subject to specified exceptions, each member of a listed company’s Audit Committee, Compensation Committee and Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee be independent under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, or the Exchange Act. Audit Committee members must also satisfy the independence criteria set forth in Rule 10A-3 under the Exchange Act, and Compensation Committee members must also satisfy the independence criteria set forth in Rule 10C-1 under the Exchange Act. Under Nasdaq Listing Rule 5605(a)(2), a director will only qualify as an “independent director” if, in the opinion of that company’s Board of Directors, that person does not have a relationship that would interfere with the exercise of independent judgment in carrying out the responsibilities of a director.

Based upon information requested from and provided by each director concerning his or her background, employment and affiliations, including family relationships, our Board of Directors has determined that each member of the Board except for Mr. Butler is an “independent director” as that term is defined under Nasdaq Listing Rule 5605(a)(2). Our Board of Directors also determined that each of the current members of our Audit Committee, our Compensation Committee and our Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee satisfies the independence standards for such committees established by the SEC and the Nasdaq Listing Rules, as applicable, including in the case of all members of the Audit Committee, the independence requirements contemplated by Rule 10A-3 under the Exchange Act and, in the case of all members of the Compensation Committee, the independence requirements contemplated by Rule 10C-1 under the Exchange Act. In making such determinations, our Board of Directors considered their background, employment and affiliations, including family relationships, the relationships that each such non-employee director has with the Company and all other facts and circumstances the committee deemed relevant in determining their independence.

There are no family relationships among any of our directors or executive officers. No arrangements or understandings exist between any director or nominee for election as a director and any other person pursuant to whom such person is to be selected as a director or nominee for election as a director.

Board Meetings, Attendance and Overboarding

The Board of Directors held eleven meetings during the year ended December 31, 2022. Each of the incumbent directors attended at least 75% of the meetings of the Board of Directors and the committees of the Board of Directors on which he or she served during the year ended December 31, 2022 (in each case, which were held during the period for which he or she was a director and/or a member of the applicable committee). It is the policy of the Board of Directors to have a separate meeting session for the independent directors generally during every regularly scheduled meeting of the full Board of Directors. Any independent director may request a meeting of the independent directors at any time.

As provided in our Corporate Governance Guidelines, all directors are expected to be able to dedicate the time and resources sufficient to ensure the diligent performance of his or her duties, including preparing for and attending meetings of the Board of Directors and applicable committee meetings as well as the annual meetings

 

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of stockholders. All of our directors attended the Company’s 2022 annual meeting of stockholders. Our Corporate Governance Guidelines also provide that a retirement age of 72 is generally considered appropriate for our directors, but our Board of Directors may decide to defer retirement in appropriate circumstances.

In addition, our Corporate Governance Guidelines also provide that directors should not serve on more than five boards of directors of public companies including the Board of Directors and that directors who are also executive officers of public companies should not serve on more than three boards of directors of public companies, including the board of directors of his or her own company. The Company also expects that each director will avoid circumstances that create an actual or perceived conflict of interest and has a process in place to appropriately evaluate any perceived conflict of interest.

Our Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee and Board of Directors regularly evaluate our directors’ commitments at other public companies to confirm compliance with our overboarding policy, discussed above, and to ensure that they are able to devote sufficient time to their duties at Akebia. In particular, the Board of Directors and the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee have regularly discussed the commitments of Adrian Adams, who is a member of the boards of directors of the maximum number of other public companies that is permitted under our Corporate Governance Guidelines. Mr. Adams, our chairperson, is Chief Executive Officer and chairperson of the board of directors of Impel Pharmaceuticals Inc. and chairperson of the board of directors and member of various committees of the board of directors of AcelRx Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Despite these various commitments, Mr. Adams has been actively engaged in our board and committee meetings, and has been generally available to engage with members of management as needed. We believe that Mr. Adam’s contributions to the Company are not compromised by the number of other outside commitments he has.

Board Diversity and Qualifications

We acknowledge that diversity among the members of the Board of Directors is important to creating a well-balanced governance team and ultimately is critical to our success. Currently, two of our directors are female and one of our directors is ethnically diverse. When reviewing potential director candidates, diversity is and will continue to be a key focus of the Nominating and Governance Committee and Board of Directors, as evidenced by the fact that of the two directors that we added to the Board of Directors in 2021, one is a female and one is ethnically diverse.

 

Board Diversity Matrix (As of April 28, 2023)

 

Total Number of Directors: 8

 
     Female      Male  

Part I: Gender Identity

     

Directors

     2        6  

Part II: Demographic Background

     

African American or Black

     0        1  

White

     2        5  

We believe that our directors also have a breadth of functional expertise, with strong public company and industry experience. Six of our eight directors have prior public company board experience and five of our eight directors are currently or were previously the chief executive officer or chief financial officer of a public company, primarily in the pharmaceutical or biotechnology space. Several of our directors have business development and acquisition experience and several have research, commercial and clinical development backgrounds, all of which are essential to our business and the future of the Company.

Board Leadership Structure and Role of the Board in Risk Oversight

Board Leadership Structure

As a general policy, our Board of Directors believes that separation of the positions of Chairperson of the Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer reinforces the independence of the Board of Directors from

 

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management, creates an environment that encourages objective oversight of management’s performance and enhances the effectiveness of the Board of Directors as a whole. Accordingly, we currently separate the roles of Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson of the Board of Directors, with Mr. Butler serving as our President and Chief Executive Officer and Mr. Adams, who is an independent director, serving as Chairperson of the Board of Directors. As President and Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Butler is responsible for setting the strategic direction for our Company and the day-to-day leadership and performance of our Company, while Mr. Adams, as Chairperson of the Board of Directors, assists with developing the agenda for meetings of the Board of Directors, presides over such meetings of the Board of Directors, including executive sessions of the Board of Directors, facilitates communications between management and the Board of Directors, and performs oversight responsibilities. Our Board of Directors has four standing committees that are chaired by independent directors and consist entirely of independent directors. Our Board of Directors delegates substantial responsibilities to the committees, which then report their activities and actions back to the full Board of Directors. We believe that the independent committees of our Board of Directors and their Chairpersons promote effective independent governance. We believe this structure represents an appropriate allocation of roles and responsibilities for our Company at this time because it strikes an effective balance between management and independent leadership participation in our Board of Directors meetings.

Risk Oversight

The Board of Directors plays an important role in risk oversight at the Company through its decision-making authority as well as through its oversight of management. In particular, the Board of Directors administers its risk oversight function through (1) the review and discussion of regular periodic reports by the Board of Directors and its committees on topics relating to the risks that the Company faces, (2) the required approval by the Board of Directors (or a committee of the Board of Directors) of significant transactions and certain other decisions, (3) the direct oversight of specific areas of the Company’s business by the Audit Committee, Compensation Committee, Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee and the Research & Development Committee, and (4) periodic reports from management, the independent auditors and other outside consultants regarding various areas of potential risk including, among others, those relating to our internal control over financial reporting, compliance and cybersecurity matters. The Board of Directors also relies on management to bring significant matters impacting the Company to the attention of the Board of Directors.

Pursuant to the Audit Committee’s charter, the Audit Committee is responsible for reviewing and discussing with management and the Company’s independent registered public accounting firm the Company’s system of internal controls, its critical accounting practices and its policies relating to risk assessment and management. As part of this process, the Audit Committee discusses the Company’s major financial, cybersecurity and compliance risk exposures and steps that management has taken to monitor and control such exposure, and oversees the Company’s efforts to remediate any control deficiencies. Oversight by the Audit Committee includes direct communication with the Company’s independent registered public accounting firm. In addition, the Audit Committee establishes, maintains and oversees procedures for the anonymous submission by Company employees of information regarding accounting or auditing matters. The Audit Committee also establishes, maintains and oversees the administration and operation of our Reporting and Compliance Investigations Policy. The Compensation Committee is responsible for overseeing the management of risks relating to our executive compensation plans and arrangements and assesses whether any of our compensation policies or programs has the potential to encourage excessive risk-taking. Our Compensation Committee also oversees risk management activities relating to management succession planning and our human capital management strategy and practices. Oversight by the Compensation Committee includes direct communication with our independent compensation consultants. The Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee is responsible for overseeing the management of risks associated with the independence of our Board of Directors and potential conflicts of interest.

The Board of Directors believes that any leadership structure that it adopts must allow it to effectively oversee the management of the risks relating to the Company’s operations. The Board of Directors acknowledges that

 

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there are different leadership structures that could allow it to effectively oversee the management of the risks relating to the Company’s operations and believes its current leadership structure enables it to effectively provide oversight with respect to such risks.

Board Committees

The Board of Directors has a standing Audit Committee, Compensation Committee, Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee, and Research & Development Committee, each of which is comprised solely of independent directors and is described more fully below. Each such committee operates pursuant to a written charter, and each committee reviews and assesses the adequacy of its charter annually and submits proposed modifications, if any, to the Board of Directors for approval. The charters for the committees are available on our website (www.akebia.com) under “Investors” at “Corporate Governance.”

The following table sets forth the current composition of each committee of the Board of Directors.

 

Name

   Audit    Compensation    Nominating
and Corporate
Governance
   Research &
Development

Adrian Adams (1)

      M      

Ron Frieson

   M       CH   

Steven C. Gilman, Ph.D.

      M       M

Michael Rogers (1)

   CH         

Cynthia Smith

      CH       M

Myles Wolf, M.D., M.M.Sc.

         M    CH

LeAnne M. Zumwalt (1)

   M       M   

 

(1)

Nominated for re-election in Proposal 1.

(CH)

Chairperson of the Committee

(M)

Member

Audit Committee

Our Audit Committee, established in accordance with Exchange Act requirements, is currently composed of Mr. Frieson, Mr. Rogers and Ms. Zumwalt, with Mr. Rogers serving as Chairperson. Mr. Frieson joined the Audit Committee in June 2022. Prior to June 8, 2022, the Audit Committee also included Michael Heffernan who did not stand for re-election to the Board of Directors at the Company’s 2022 annual meeting of stockholders. Our Board of Directors has determined that Mr. Frieson, Mr. Rogers and Ms. Zumwalt each meet the independence requirements of Rule 10A-3 under the Exchange Act and the applicable listing standards of The Nasdaq Capital Market. During the time that Mr. Heffernan was a member of the Audit Committee, he also met the independence requirements of Rule 10A-3 under the Exchange Act and the applicable listing standards of The Nasdaq Capital Market. The Board of Directors has determined that Mr. Rogers is an “audit committee financial expert” within the meaning of the SEC regulations and the applicable listing standards of The Nasdaq Capital Market. The Audit Committee’s responsibilities include, among others:

 

   

overseeing our accounting and financial reporting processes and the audits of our financial statements;

 

   

overseeing the independent registered public accounting firm, which we also refer to as independent auditors, including appointing and reviewing the performance of such independent auditors;

 

   

reviewing internal controls;

 

   

reviewing risk assessment and risk management, including with respect to major financial, cybersecurity and compliance risk exposures;

 

   

establishing, maintain and overseeing procedures for the confidential, anonymous submission of information regarding accounting or auditor matters;

 

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overseeing our healthcare compliance program;

 

   

reviewing and recommending to our Board of Directors for approval all related person transactions and overseeing our Policy with Respect to Related Person Transactions;

 

   

reviewing and pre-approving audit and permissible non-audit services to be provided by our independent auditor;

 

   

annually reviewing and reassessing the adequacy of the Audit Committee charter;

 

   

establishing, maintaining and overseeing our Code of Conduct; and

 

   

conducting an annual performance self-evaluation to assess the Audit Committee’s purpose, duties and responsibilities.

During the year ended December 31, 2022, the Audit Committee met six times. The report of the Audit Committee is included in this Proxy Statement under “Audit Committee Report.”

Compensation Committee

Our Compensation Committee is currently composed of Mr. Adams, Mr. Gilman and Ms. Smith, with Ms. Smith serving as Chairperson. Our Board of Directors has determined that each current member of the Compensation Committee is “independent” as defined under the applicable listing standards of The Nasdaq Capital Market and meets the independence criteria set forth in Rule 10C-1 under the Exchange Act. The Compensation Committee has the authority to delegate to subcommittees of the Compensation Committee any of the responsibilities of the full committee. The Compensation Committee’s responsibilities include:

 

   

reviewing and approving individual and corporate goals and objectives applicable to our executives who are Senior Vice President and above and report directly to our Chief Executive Officer, or non-CEO Executives, and any other individuals whose compensation is required to be approved by the Compensation Committee pursuant to the rules of the Nasdaq Stock Market, or Nasdaq Officers, evaluating their performance in light of such goals and objectives and approving their compensation;

 

   

reviewing and recommending for approval to the Board of Directors individual and corporate goals and objectives for our Chief Executive Officer, evaluating the performance of our Chief Executive Officer in light of such goals and objectives and his or her compensation;

 

   

engaging, compensating and overseeing the work of any compensation consultant, legal counsel or other advisor retained by the Compensation Committee;

 

   

conducting the independence assessment outlined in the Nasdaq Listing Rules with respect to any compensation consultant, legal counsel or other advisor retained by the Compensation Committee;

 

   

annually reviewing and reassessing the adequacy of the Compensation Committee charter;

 

   

reviewing, making recommendations to the Board of Directors, and administering our incentive compensation plans;

 

   

reviewing and approving any tax-qualified, non-discriminatory employee benefit plans and any parallel nonqualified plans for which stockholder approval is not sought and pursuant to which options or stock may be acquired by our officers, directors, employees or consultants;

 

   

reviewing, making recommendations to the Board of Directors, and administering our equity-based plans;

 

   

reviewing and making recommendations to the Board of Directors with respect to director compensation;

 

   

reviewing and approving any proposed employment, severance, retention, change in control or similar agreements for our non-CEO Executives or Nasdaq Officers;

 

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reviewing and recommending for approval to the Board of Directors any proposed employment, severance, retention, change in control or similar agreements for our Chief Executive Officer;

 

   

reviewing and discussing with management the Compensation Discussion and Analysis to be included in our annual proxy statement or our Annual Report on Form 10-K and preparing the annual Compensation Committee report to be included in our annual proxy statement;

 

   

overseeing and presenting to the Board of Directors our corporate succession plans for the Chief Executive Officer and other senior management positions; and

 

   

conducting an annual self-evaluation to assess the Compensation Committee’s purpose, duties and responsibilities.

During the year ended December 31, 2022, the Compensation Committee met six times.

Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee

Our Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee is currently composed of Mr. Frieson, Dr. Wolf and Ms. Zumwalt, with Mr. Frieson serving as Chairperson. Ms. Zumwalt joined, and Mr. Frieson became the Chairperson of, the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee on March 15, 2023. Prior to March 15, 2023, Mr. Adams and Ms. Smith were also members of the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee and Mr. Adams was the Chairperson. Our Board of Directors has determined that each current member of the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee is “independent” as defined under the applicable listing standards of The Nasdaq Capital Market. In addition, during the time that Mr. Adams and Ms. Smith served on the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee each was “independent” as defined under the applicable listing standards of The Nasdaq Capital Market. The Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee’s responsibilities include:

 

   

developing and recommending to the Board of Directors criteria for Board of Directors and committee membership;

 

   

establishing procedures for identifying and reviewing Board of Director candidates, including nominees recommended by stockholders;

 

   

identifying and reviewing individuals qualified to become members of the Board of Directors;

 

   

recommending to the Board of Directors the persons to be nominated for election as directors and appointed to each of the Board of Directors’ committees;

 

   

reviewing and recommending to the Board of Directors a set of corporate governance principles;

 

   

reviewing and recommending to the Board of Directors the number, responsibilities and membership of the committees of the Board of Directors;

 

   

annually reviewing and assessing the adequacy of the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee charter;

 

   

overseeing the Company’s director orientation and continuing education for existing directors;

 

   

overseeing the Company’s efforts with regard to corporate responsibility and sustainability efforts, including the impact of environmental, social and governance issues on the Company;

 

   

making a final determination regarding a director’s change in job responsibilities or notification of an invitation to join a new board or other association, if there is disagreement;

 

   

conducting an annual self-evaluation to assess the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee’s purpose, duties and responsibilities;

 

   

evaluating and making recommendations to the Board of Directors regarding stockholder proposals submitted for inclusion in our annual Proxy Statement;

 

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recommending criteria for assessment of the performance of committees other than the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee, and annually reviewing self-assessments of each other committee; and

 

   

recommending criteria for assessment of the performance of the Board of Directors as a whole, and of individual directors, as well as reviewing and evaluating the responsibilities, performance, operations, size and composition of the Board of Directors and committees.

During the year ended December 31, 2022, the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee met four times.

Research & Development Committee

Our Research & Development Committee is currently composed of Dr. Gilman, Ms. Smith and Dr. Wolf, with Dr. Wolf serving as Chairperson. Ms. Smith joined the Research & Development Committee on March 15, 2023. Prior to June 8, 2022, Mr. Heffernan, who did not stand for re-election to the Board of Directors at the Company’s 2022 annual meeting of stockholders, was also a member of the Research & Development Committee. The Research & Development Committee’s responsibilities relate to the assessment of research and development at the Company, including:

 

   

our research and development strategy and objectives;

 

   

emerging scientific trends and activities that are critical to the success of our research and development;

 

   

an assessment of the suitability, competitiveness and progress of our product candidates; and

 

   

contract manufacturing.

During the year ended December 31, 2022, the Research & Development Committee met four times.

Environment, Social and Governance Matters

The Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee is responsible for oversight of the Company’s efforts with regard to environmental, social and governance, or ESG, matters, including the impact of ESG issues on the Company. Our ESG initiatives are centered around our commitments to the patients we serve, our employees, our communities and the world, and business ethics and values. We are committed to advancing policies and practices focused on these matters and the meaningful and positive change that initiatives in these areas can have on our communities. For example, we offer certain patient assistance programs such as our co-pay assistance and the Akebia Cares programs, which are designed to provide financial support and to help communicate individual benefits and available resources for patients who are facing financial obstacles that keep them from accessing important medications. In 2022, we provided over $5.3 million of free Auryxia® to approximately 14,000 patients needing assistance. Our Cambridge office is Fitwel, a healthy building certification system, level two certified and we have consolidated our office footprint to reduce our use of energy and other resources. In addition, we have initiated recycling programs, including single stream recycling, recycling cans at every desk and recycling bins on shipping docks. Furthermore, we offer a commuter benefit to all of our hybrid and office-based employees to encourage employees to use public transportation, as well as offering bicycle parking free of charge in the onsite garage. With the support and oversight of our Board of Directors and the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee, we plan to continue to review and advance our efforts related to ESG matters.

Hedging and Pledging Policies

As part of our Insider Trading Compliance Policy, our directors and employees are prohibited from engaging in any hedging transactions of our Common Stock, including through variable prepaid forward contracts, equity swaps and collars, and similar devices. In addition, such persons are prohibited from holding our Common Stock in a margin account or pledge such shares as collateral for a loan.

 

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Code of Conduct and Corporate Governance Guidelines

We have adopted a Code of Conduct that applies to all of our employees, including those employees responsible for financial reporting and officers, directors, vendors, consultants, and contractors, as well as Corporate Governance Guidelines. These documents are available on our website (www.akebia.com) under “Investors” at “Corporate Governance” or by requesting copies in writing from Corporate Secretary at our Cambridge, Massachusetts office. We intend to disclose amendments to the Code of Conduct, or any waivers of its requirements, on our website as may be required by law or the Nasdaq Listing Rules.

 

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DIRECTOR COMPENSATION

The Compensation Committee engaged with independent compensation consultant, Pearl Meyer & Partners, LLC, or Pearl Meyer, to review our director compensation for 2022 and for 2023.

In accordance with the terms of its charter, the Compensation Committee makes recommendations to the Board of Directors regarding director compensation. The Board of Directors discusses the Compensation Committee’s recommendations and has final approval authority with respect to director compensation. The Board of Directors adopted the Non-Employee Director Compensation Program, effective January 26, 2021, or the Prior Director Compensation Program, and the Amended and Restated Non-Employee Director Compensation Program, effective April 27, 2023, or the Current Director Compensation Program, which superseded the Prior Director Compensation Program in its entirety and applies to all director compensation beginning April 27, 2023. The Prior Director Compensation Program and the Current Director Compensation Program may be referred to jointly in this Proxy Statement as the “Director Compensation Programs.”

Pursuant to, and in accordance with, the Director Compensation Programs, each director of the Company during 2022 who was not an employee of the Company, which we refer to in this Proxy Statement as a “Non-Employee Director”, was paid cash compensation during the year ended December 31, 2022 as follows:

 

     Annual Cash
Retainer
($)
 

Board of Directors:

  

Non-Employee Directors

     45,000  

Additional Retainer for Chairperson (1)

     35,000  

Audit Committee:

  

Non-Chair Members

     10,000  

Chairperson

     20,000  

Compensation Committee:

  

Non-Chair Members

     7,500  

Chairperson

     15,000  

Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee:

  

Non-Chair Members

     5,000  

Chairperson

     10,000  

Research & Development Committee:

  

Non-Chair Members

     5,000  

Chairperson

     10,000  

 

(1)

Pursuant to the terms of the Director Compensation Programs, the $35,000 cash retainer paid to the Chairperson of the Board of Directors for service as the Chairperson of the Board of Directors is in addition to the $45,000 cash retainer paid to the Chairperson as a Non-Employee Director, such that the Chairperson is paid an annualized total of $80,000.

Under the Prior Director Compensation Program, each Non-Employee Director was eligible to receive an option to purchase 80,200 shares of Common Stock under the Akebia Therapeutics, Inc. 2014 Incentive Plan, as amended, or the 2014 Plan, or any successor equity incentive plan thereto at the time of such Non-Employee Director’s initial appointment or election to the Board of Directors. Under the Current Director Compensation Program, each new Non-Employee Director will be eligible to receive an option to purchase 180,000 shares of Common Stock under the 2014 Plan or any successor equity incentive plan thereto, at the time of such Non-Employee Director’s initial appointment or election to the Board of Directors. We refer to such award throughout this Proxy Statement as an “Initial Award.” Each Initial Award granted under the director compensation program in place before the Prior Director Compensation Program vests over four years, with 25% of the shares underlying the Initial Award vesting on the first anniversary of the date of grant and the remaining

 

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75% of the shares underlying the Initial Award vesting ratably on the first day of each calendar quarter between the first anniversary of the date of grant and the fourth anniversary of the date of grant, subject to the Non-Employee Director’s continuous service through the applicable vesting date. Currently, each Initial Award granted under the Director Compensation Programs vests over three years, with 33 1/3% of the shares underlying the Initial Award vesting on the first anniversary of the date of grant and the remaining 66 2/3% of the shares underlying the Initial Award vesting ratably on the first day of each calendar quarter between the first anniversary of the date of grant and the third anniversary of the date of grant, subject to the Non-Employee Director’s continuous service through the applicable vesting date.

In addition, under the Prior Director Compensation Program, each Non-Employee Director who had served on the Board of Directors for at least six months as of the date of any annual meeting of stockholders and continued to serve on the Board of Directors immediately following such annual meeting of stockholders, was eligible to receive, on the date of such annual meeting, an option to purchase 20,100 shares of Common Stock and a grant of 13,700 restricted stock units, or RSUs. Under the Current Director Compensation Program, each Non-Employee Director who has served on the Board of Directors for at least six months as of the date of any annual meeting of stockholders and continues to serve on the Board of Directors immediately following such annual meeting of stockholders, will be eligible to receive, on the date of such annual meeting, an option to purchase 45,000 shares of Common Stock and a grant of 30,000 RSUs. We refer to such grant of stock options and RSUs in this Proxy Statement as the “Subsequent Awards.” The Subsequent Awards (i) are granted subject to the terms of the 2014 Plan or any successor equity incentive plan and (ii) vest in full on the first anniversary of the grant date, subject to the Non-Employee Director’s continuous service through the applicable vesting date. These stock options have a 10-year term and are granted with an exercise price equal to the fair market value of a share of Common Stock on the date of grant. Pursuant to the form of stock option agreement and form of RSU agreement for the Non-Employee Directors adopted by the Board of Directors under the 2014 Plan or any successor equity incentive plan, if, in connection with a change in control (as such term is defined in the applicable award agreement), the outstanding Initial Award and Subsequent Awards held by a Non-Employee Director is not assumed or continued, and a new equity award is not granted in substitution thereof by the acquirer or survivor of a change in control (or an affiliate of the acquirer or survivor) in accordance with the terms of the 2014 Plan or any successor equity incentive plan, any unvested portion of such Initial Award and Subsequent Awards will vest in full upon such change in control.

2022 Director Compensation

The following table sets forth a summary of the compensation earned by each Non-Employee Director during the fiscal year ended December 31, 2022. Other than as set forth in the table below, we did not pay any cash compensation, make any equity awards or non-equity awards to, or pay any other compensation to any Non-Employee Director during the year ended December 31, 2022. Mr. Butler, our President and Chief Executive Officer, received no additional compensation for his service as a director and, consequently, is not included in the table below. The compensation received by Mr. Butler as an employee of the Company during 2022 is presented in the “2022 Summary Compensation Table” below.

 

Name    Fees Earned
or Paid in
Cash($)(1)
     Stock
Awards($)(2)
     Option
Awards($)(2)
     All Other
Compensation ($)
(3)
    

Total

($)

 

Adrian Adams (4)

     97,500        6,098        6,611        —          110,209  

Ron Frieson (5)

     55,604        6,098        6,611        3,379        71,692  

Steven C. Gilman, Ph.D. (6)

     57,500        6,098        6,611        518        70,727  

Michael T. Heffernan (7)

     29,093        —          —          813        29,906  

Michael Rogers (8)

     65,000        6,098        6,611        53        77,762  

Cynthia Smith (9)

     65,000        6,098        6,611        2,967        80,676  

Myles Wolf, M.D., M.M.Sc. (10)

     60,000        6,098        6,611        4,607        77,316  

LeAnne M. Zumwalt (11)

     55,000        6,098        6,611        4,253        71,961  

 

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(1)

Amounts listed represent fees earned in cash during the year ended December 31, 2022.

(2)

The amounts reported in the “Stock Awards” and “Option Awards” columns above represent the aggregate fair value amount of the RSUs and time-based stock options granted during the year ended December 31, 2022, respectively, computed as of the grant date of such RSUs and stock options, respectively, in accordance with Accounting Standards Codification, or ASC, Topic 718, not including any estimates of forfeitures. The assumptions used in calculating the grant date fair value of the RSUs and stock options are set forth in Note 12 to our financial statements included in our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2022, which was filed with the SEC on March 10, 2023.

(3)

Represents reimbursement for travel expenses for Board meetings.

(4)

As of December 31, 2022, Mr. Adams held options to purchase 105,400 shares of our Common Stock and 13,700 RSUs.

(5)

As of December 31, 2022, Mr. Frieson held options to purchase 100,300 shares of our Common Stock and 13,700 RSUs.

(6)

As of December 31, 2022, Dr. Gilman held options to purchase 157,803 shares of our Common Stock and 13,700 RSUs.

(7)

Mr. Heffernan did not stand for re-election at the Company’s 2022 annual meeting of stockholders and ceased serving as a director immediately following such annual meeting. As such, Mr. Heffernan was not granted any Subsequent Awards during the year ended December 31, 2022. As of December 31, 2022, Mr. Heffernan held options to purchase 29,945 shares of our Common Stock.

(8)

As of December 31, 2022, Mr. Rogers held options to purchase 157,803 shares of our Common Stock and 13,700 RSUs.

(9

As of December 31, 2022, Ms. Smith held options to purchase 105,400 shares of our Common Stock and 13,700 RSUs.

(10)

As of December 31, 2022, Dr. Wolf held options to purchase 120,400 shares of our Common Stock and 13,700 RSUs.

(11)

As of December 31, 2022, Ms. Zumwalt held options to purchase 100,300 shares of our Common Stock and 13,700 RSUs.

 

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PROPOSAL 2—APPROVAL OF THE AKEBIA THERAPEUTICS, INC. 2023 STOCK INCENTIVE PLAN

Why We Are Requesting Stockholder Approval of the 2023 Stock Incentive Plan

We are asking stockholders to approve the Akebia Therapeutics, Inc. 2023 Stock Incentive Plan, or the 2023 Plan. Our Board of Directors believes that our success depends, in large part, on our ability to maintain a competitive position by attracting, retaining and motivating key employees with experience and ability. Central to these objectives is our equity-based compensation program, which is consistent with our compensation philosophy and the compensatory practices of other pharmaceutical companies in our peer group and other companies that we compete with for talent. We and our Board of Directors understand that our equity-compensation needs must be balanced against the dilutive effect of such programs on our stockholders. To that end, and based on careful weighing of the considerations, as more fully described below, on April 27, 2023, upon the recommendation of the Compensation Committee, and subject to stockholder approval, the Board of Directors adopted the 2023 Plan.

The 2023 Plan is intended to replace the 2014 Plan, which will expire by its terms on February 28, 2024. If our stockholders approve the 2023 Plan, we will not grant any further awards under the 2014 Plan after the date of such approval, but awards previously granted under the 2014 Plan will remain outstanding. If the stockholders do not approve the 2023 Plan, then the 2014 Plan will remain in effect pursuant to its existing terms until its expiration and we will consider other alternatives as a means of properly and competitively compensating our employees, directors and other service providers, including potentially increasing the amount of cash that we use as compensation.

We intend to utilize the 2023 Plan as we have utilized the 2014 Plan – specifically, to grant equity awards to our existing employees, non-employee directors, consultants and advisors in order to incent, retain and reward those who are critical to our success. Our Compensation Committee determined the requested number of shares for our 2023 Plan based on projected annual equity awards to employees and our non-employee directors, employee recognition and promotion awards, and an assessment of the magnitude of the share reserve under the plan that our stockholders would likely find acceptable. If stockholders approve the 2023 Plan, subject to adjustment in the event of stock splits and other similar events, awards may be made under the 2023 Plan for up to a number of shares of Common Stock equal to the sum of: (i) 10,000,000 shares of Common Stock; and (ii) such additional number of shares of Common Stock (up to 24,361,685) as is equal to the sum of (x) the number of shares of Common Stock reserved for issuance under the 2014 Plan that remain available for grant under the 2014 Plan (including any shares that remain available for grant under the 2014 Plan as a result of a plan that was assumed by the Company pursuant to Section 4(c) of the 2014 Plan) immediately prior to the date that the 2023 Plan is approved by our stockholders and (y) the number of shares of Common Stock subject to awards granted under the 2014 Plan (including any shares granted under the 2014 Plan as a result of a plan that was assumed by the Company pursuant to Section 4(c) of the 2014 Plan) that are outstanding as of the date that the 2023 Plan is approved by our stockholders and which awards expire, terminate or are otherwise surrendered, cancelled, forfeited or repurchased by the Company at their original issuance price pursuant to a contractual repurchase right (subject, however, in the case of incentive stock options to any limitations under the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, and any regulations thereunder, or the Code). The 2023 Plan does not include an evergreen provision (which the 2014 Plan contains) and we include several features that are consistent with protecting the interests of our stockholders and sound corporate governance practices, as described below.

We have for the past eight years relied on the inducement grant exception under Nasdaq Listing Rule 5635(c)(4) to grant nonstatutory stock options, or Inducement Awards, to all of our newly hired employees who are eligible under the Nasdaq rules to receive such grants. Because the shares available for issuance under the 2014 Plan have been (and the shares available under the 2023 Plan will be, if the plan is approved) insufficient to meet our equity grant needs, we expect to continue using Inducement Awards for all of our new-hire equity grants.

 

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The following table includes information, as of March 31, 2023, regarding all of our outstanding equity awards under all of our equity-based compensation plans and arrangements under which shares of Common Stock may be issued, including the 2014 Plan and Inducement Awards granted under Nasdaq Listing Rule 5635(c)(4) to newly hired employees who are eligible under the Nasdaq rules to receive such awards, as well as the number of shares requested for issuance under the 2023 Plan (but not including our 2014 Employee Stock Purchase Plan).

 

Number of outstanding options

    13,877,754  

Weighted average exercise price of outstanding options

  $ 4.91  

Weighted average remaining contractual term of outstanding options (in years)

    7.66  

Number of outstanding restricted stock units (“RSUs”)

    6,060,421  

Number of outstanding SARs

    635,313  

Weighted average measurement price of outstanding SARs

  $ 0.63  

Weighted average remaining contractual term of outstanding SARs (in years)

    9.84  

Shares available for the grant of new awards under the 2014 Plan

    6,607,853  

New shares requested for approval pursuant to the 2023 Plan

    10,000,000  

Estimated total number of shares available for issuance under all plans assuming approval of the 2023 Plan

    16,607,853  

Number of shares of Common Stock outstanding

    185,835,946  

As of March 31, 2023, there were no outstanding shares of restricted stock or other stock-based awards.

We expect that the proposed share pool under the 2023 Plan will allow us to continue to grant equity awards at our historic rates for approximately two years but the actual duration of the share pool may vary based on changes in participation, the Company’s stock price and market practice.

We believe that our stock-based compensation programs have been integral to our success in the past and will be important to our ability to succeed in the future. If the 2023 Plan is not approved by our stockholders, we will not be able to make long-term equity incentive awards that are sufficient to meet our needs and, in any case, the 2014 Plan will expire on February 28, 2024. The inability to make competitive equity awards to retain talented employees in a highly competitive market could have an adverse impact on our business. Further, if the 2023 Plan is not approved, we could be forced to increase cash compensation, which will reduce the resources we have allocated to meeting our business needs and objectives. Therefore, the approval of the 2023 Plan is vital to our future success.

For purposes of this proposal and except where the context otherwise requires, the term “Company” and similar terms shall include any of the Company’s present or future parent or subsidiary corporations as defined in Sections 424(e) or (f) of the Code and any other business venture (including, without limitation, joint venture or limited liability company) in which the Company has a controlling interest, as determined by our Board of Directors.

Accordingly, our Board of Directors believes approval of the 2023 Plan is in the best interests of the Company and its stockholders and recommends a vote “FOR” the approval of the 2023 Plan.

The remainder of this Proposal 2 includes:

 

   

Highlights of the 2023 Plan;

 

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Reasons Why Stockholders Should Approve the 2023 Plan;

 

   

Information Regarding Overhang and Dilution; and

 

   

Description of the 2023 Plan.

Highlights of the 2023 Plan

The 2023 Plan includes several features that are consistent with protecting the interests of our stockholders and sound corporate governance practices. These features are highlighted below, and are more fully described in the summary of the 2023 Plan further below in this proposal as well as in the copy of the 2023 Plan in Appendix A to this Proxy Statement.

No Evergreen. The 2023 Plan does not include an “evergreen” or other provision that automatically increases the number of shares available for grant under the plan and therefore any increase to the maximum share reserve in the 2023 Plan is subject to approval by our stockholders, allowing our stockholders to have a say in our equity compensation programs.

Clawback Policy. In accepting an Award under the 2023 Plan, a participant agrees to be bound by any clawback policy that the Company has in effect or may adopt in the future.

No Automatic Vesting of Awards on a Change in Control Event. The 2023 Plan does not provide for the automatic vesting of awards in connection with a change in control event.

No Repricing of Awards. The 2023 Plan prohibits the direct or indirect repricing of stock options or SARs without stockholder approval.

No Discounted Options or SARs. All options and SARs must have an exercise or measurement price that is at least equal to the fair market value of the underlying Common Stock on the date of grant.

No Reload Options or SARs. No options or SARs granted under the 2023 Plan may contain a provision entitling the award holder to the automatic grant of additional options or SARs in connection with any exercise of the original option or SAR.

No Dividend Equivalents on Options or SARs. No options or SARs granted under the 2023 Plan may provide for the payment or accrual of dividend equivalents.

Dividends and Dividend Equivalents on Restricted Stock, Restricted Stock Units and Other-Stock Based Awards Not Paid Until Award Vests. Any dividends or dividend equivalents paid with respect to restricted stock, RSUs or other stock-based awards will be subject to the same restrictions on transfer and forfeitability as the award with respect to which they are paid.

Limit on Non-Employee Director Compensation. The maximum aggregate amount of cash earned or paid and value of awards (calculated based on grant date fair value for financial reporting purposes) granted to any non-employee director in any calendar year may not exceed $750,000 in the case of an incumbent director. However, such maximum aggregate amount shall not exceed $1,000,000 in any calendar year for any individual non-employee director in such non-employee director’s initial year of election or appointment. Exceptions to these limitations may only be made by our Board of Directors in extraordinary circumstances provided that the non-employee director receiving any additional compensation does not participate in the decision to award such compensation. 

Material Amendments Require Stockholder Approval. Stockholder approval is required prior to an amendment of the 2023 Plan that would (i) materially increase the number of shares authorized (other than as provided under the 2023 Plan with respect to certain corporate events or substitute awards), (ii) expand the types of awards that may be granted, or (iii) materially expand the class of participants eligible to participate.

 

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Administered by an Independent Committee. The 2023 Plan is administered by the Compensation Committee, as delegated by our Board of Directors. The Compensation Committee is made up entirely of independent directors.

Reasons Why Stockholders Should Approve the 2023 Plan

Incents, Retains and Motivates Talent. It is critical to our success that we incent, retain and motivate the best talent in what is a tremendously competitive labor market. Our equity-based compensation program has always been and will continue to be a key component in our ability to pay market-competitive compensation to our employees.

Aligns with Our Pay-for-Performance Compensation Philosophy. We believe that equity-based compensation is inherently performance-based. As the value of our stock appreciates, our employees receive greater compensation at the same time that our stockholders are receiving a greater return on their investment. Conversely, if the stock price does not appreciate following the grant of an equity award, then our employees would not receive any compensation in respect of stock options and would receive lower compensation than intended in respect of RSUs.

Aligns Employee and Director Interests with Stockholder Interests. Providing our employees and non-employee directors with compensation in the form of equity directly aligns the interests of those employees and non-employee directors with the interests of our stockholders. If the 2023 Plan is approved by stockholders, we will be able to continue granting equity-based incentives that foster this alignment between our employees and non-employee directors and our stockholders.

Consistent with Stockholder Interests and Sound Corporate Governance. As described under the heading “Highlights of the 2023 Plan” and more thoroughly below, the 2023 Plan was purposefully designed to include features that are consistent with the interests of our stockholders and sound corporate governance practices.

Information Regarding Overhang and Dilution

In developing our share request for the 2023 Plan and analyzing the impact of utilizing equity as a means of compensation on our stockholders, we considered both our “overhang” and our “burn rate”.

Overhang is a measure of potential dilution which we define as the sum of (i) the total number of shares underlying all outstanding equity awards and (ii) the total number of shares available for the grant of future equity awards, divided by the number of shares of Common Stock outstanding. As of March 31, 2023, there were 20,573,488 shares underlying all outstanding equity awards, 6,607,853 shares remaining available for future awards under the 2014 Plan, and 185,835,946 shares of Common Stock outstanding. Accordingly, our overhang at March 31, 2023 was 14.6%. If the 10,000,000 shares proposed to be authorized for grant under the 2023 Plan are included in the calculation, our overhang on March 31, 2023 would have been 20.0%.

Burn rate provides a measure of the potential dilutive impact of our equity award program which we calculate by dividing the number of shares subject to equity awards granted during the year by the basic weighted average number of shares outstanding. Set forth below is a table that reflects our burn rate for the 2022, 2021 and 2020 calendar years as well as an average over those years.

 

Calendar Year    Awards
Granted
(#)
     Basic Weighted Average Number
of Shares of Common
Stock Outstanding
(#)
     Gross Burn
Rate (1)
 

2022

     9,925,008        182,782,680        5.4

2021

     7,269,720        165,949,700        4.4

2020

     6,126,300        138,463,150        4.4

Three-Year Average

     7,773,676        162,398,510        4.7

 

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(1)

“Gross burn rate” is defined as the number of equity awards granted in the year divided by the basic weighted average number of shares of Common Stock outstanding.

Finally, in developing the share request for the 2023 Plan, we considered that, as of March 31, 2023 92% of our outstanding stock options had an exercise price greater than our stock price on March 31, 2023 and therefore had no intrinsic value. Thus, a significant portion of the outstanding equity awards that we have granted are not in fact currently serving to retain employees, exacerbating our equity compensation needs. With the unprecedented competition for talent in the current marketplace, we need to be able to offer market-competitive equity awards to existing employees through annual equity grants and employee recognition, retention and promotion grants.

Description of the 2023 Plan

The following is a brief summary of the 2023 Plan, a copy of which is attached as Appendix A to this Proxy Statement. References to our Board of Directors in this summary shall include the Compensation Committee or any similar committee or sub-committee or the Delegated Persons (as defined below) to the extent that our Board of Directors’ powers or authority under the 2023 Plan have been delegated to such committee or Delegated Persons, in accordance with the 2023 Plan.

Types of Awards; Shares Available for Awards; Share Counting Rules

The 2023 Plan provides for the grant of incentive stock options intended to qualify under Section 422 of the Code, nonstatutory stock options, SARs, restricted stock, RSUs, other stock-based awards and cash awards as described below, which we refer to, collectively, as awards or Awards.

Subject to adjustment in the event of stock splits, stock dividends and other similar events, awards may be made under the 2023 Plan (any or all of which awards may be in the form of incentive stock options) for up to a number of shares of Common Stock equal to the sum of: (i) 10,000,000 shares of our Common Stock; and (ii) such additional number of shares of Common Stock (up to 24,361,685) as is equal to the sum of (x) the number of shares of Common Stock reserved for issuance under our 2014 Plan that remain available for grant under the 2014 Plan (including any shares that remain available for grant under the 2014 Plan as a result of a plan that was assumed under Section 4(c) of the 2014 Plan) and (y) the number of shares of Common Stock subject to awards granted under the 2014 Plan (including any shares granted under the 2014 Plan as a result of a plan that was assumed under Section 4(c) of the 2014 Plan) that are outstanding as of the date of stockholder approval of the 2023 Plan which awards expire, terminate or are otherwise surrendered, cancelled, forfeited or repurchased by the Company at their original issuance price pursuant to a contractual repurchase right (subject, however, in the case of incentive stock options to any limitations under the Code). Shares of Common Stock issued under the 2023 Plan may consist in whole or in part of authorized but unissued shares or treasury shares.

The 2023 Plan provides that the maximum aggregate amount of cash and value of awards (calculated based on grant date fair value for financial reporting purposes) granted to any individual non-employee director in any calendar year may not exceed $750,000 in the case of an incumbent director. However, such maximum aggregate amount shall not exceed $1,000,000 in any calendar year for any individual non-employee director in such non-employee director’s initial year of election or appointment. Moreover, fees paid by the Company on behalf of any non-employee director in connection with regulatory compliance and any amounts paid to a non-employee director as reimbursement of an expense will not count against this limit. Exceptions to this limitation may only be made by our Board of Directors in extraordinary circumstances provided that any non-employee director receiving additional compensation does not participate in the decision to award such compensation. This limitation does not apply to cash or awards granted to a non-employee director in his or her capacity as an advisor or consultant to the Company.

For purposes of counting the number of shares available for the grant of awards under the 2023 Plan, all shares of Common Stock covered by SARs shall be counted against the number of shares available for the grant

 

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of awards under the Plan. However, SARs that may be settled only in cash will not be so counted. Similarly, to the extent that an RSU award may be settled only in cash, no shares will be counted against the shares available for the grant of awards under the 2023 Plan. In addition, if we grant a SAR in tandem with an option for the same number of shares of our Common Stock and provide that only one such award may be exercised, or tandem SAR, only the shares covered by the option, and not the shares covered by the tandem SAR, will be so counted, and the expiration of one in connection with the other’s exercise will not restore shares to the 2023 Plan.

Shares covered by awards under the 2023 Plan that expire or are terminated, surrendered, or cancelled without having been fully exercised or are forfeited in whole or in part (including as the result of shares subject to such award being repurchased by us at the original issuance price pursuant to a contractual repurchase right) or that result in any shares not being issued (including as a result of an award being settled in cash rather than stock) will again be available for the grant of awards under the 2023 Plan (subject, in the case of incentive stock options, to any limitations under the Code). In the case of the exercise of a SAR, the number of shares counted against the shares available for the grant of awards under the 2023 Plan will be the full number of shares subject to the SAR multiplied by the percentage of the SAR actually exercised, regardless of the number of shares actually used to settle the SAR upon exercise, and the shares covered by a tandem SAR will not again become available for grant upon the expiration or termination of the tandem SAR.

Shares of Common Stock that are delivered (by actual delivery, attestation, or net exercise) to us by a participant to purchase shares of Common Stock upon exercise of an award or to satisfy tax withholding obligations (including shares retained from the award creating the tax obligation) will be added back to the number of shares available for the future grant of awards under the 2023 Plan. Shares repurchased by us on the open market using proceeds from the exercise of an award will not increase the number of shares available for future grant of awards under the 2023 Plan.

In connection with a merger or consolidation of an entity with us or our acquisition of property or stock of an entity, our Board of Directors may grant awards under the 2023 Plan in substitution for any options or other stock or stock-based awards granted by such entity or an affiliate thereof on such terms as our Board of Directors determines appropriate in the circumstances, notwithstanding any limitation on awards contained in the 2023 Plan. No such substitute awards shall count against the overall share limit contained in the 2023 Plan, except as required by reason of Section 422 and related provisions of the Code.

Descriptions of Awards

Options. A participant who is awarded an option receives the right to purchase a specified number of shares of Common Stock at a specified exercise price and subject to the other terms and conditions that are specified in connection with the award agreement. An option that is not intended to be an “incentive stock option” is a “nonstatutory stock option.” Options may not be granted at an exercise price that is less than 100% of the fair market value of our Common Stock on the date of grant. If our Board of Directors approves the grant of an option with an exercise price to be determined on a future date, the exercise price may not be less than 100% of the fair market value of our Common Stock on that future date. Under present law, incentive stock options may not be granted at an exercise price less than 110% of the fair market value in the case of stock options granted to participants who hold more than 10% of the total combined voting power of all classes of our stock or any of our subsidiaries. Under the terms of the 2023 Plan, options may not be granted for a term in excess of ten years (and, under present law, five years in the case of incentive stock options granted to participants who hold greater than 10% of the total combined voting power of all classes of our stock or any of our subsidiaries).

The 2023 Plan permits participants to pay the exercise price of options using one or more of the following manners of payment: (i) payment by cash or by check, (ii) except as may otherwise be provided in the applicable award agreement or approved by our Board of Directors, in connection with a “cashless exercise” through a broker, (iii) to the extent provided in the applicable award agreement or approved by our Board of Directors, and subject to certain conditions, by delivery to us (either by actual delivery or attestation) of shares of Common

 

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Stock owned by the participant valued at their fair market value, (iv) to the extent provided in an applicable nonstatutory stock option award agreement or approved by our Board of Directors, by delivery of a notice of “net exercise” as a result of which we will retain a number of shares of Common Stock otherwise issuable pursuant to the stock option equal to the aggregate exercise price for the portion of the option being exercised divided by the fair market value of our Common Stock on the date of exercise, (v) to the extent permitted by applicable law and provided for in the applicable award agreement or approved by our Board of Directors, by any other lawful means (but not by a promissory note of the participant), or (vi) by any combination of these forms of payment. No option granted under the 2023 Plan may contain a provision entitling the participant to the automatic grant of additional options in connection with any exercise of the original option. No options granted under the 2023 Plan may provide for the payment or accrual of dividend equivalents.

Stock Appreciation Rights. A participant who is awarded a SAR receives, upon exercise, a number of shares of our Common Stock, or cash (or a combination of shares of our Common Stock and cash) determined by reference to appreciation, from and after the date of grant, in the fair market value of a share of our Common Stock over the measurement price. The 2023 Plan provides that the measurement price of a SAR may not be less than 100% of the fair market value of our Common Stock on the date the SAR is granted (provided, however, that if our Board of Directors approves the grant of a SAR effective as of a future date, the measurement price shall not be less than 100% of the fair market value on such future date) and that SARs may not be granted with a term in excess of 10 years. No SARs granted under the 2023 Plan may contain a provision entitling the participant to the automatic grant of additional SARs in connection with any exercise of the original SAR. No SARs granted under the 2023 Plan may provide for the payment or accrual of dividend equivalents.

Limitation on Repricing of Options or SARs. With respect to options and SARs, unless such action is approved by stockholders or otherwise permitted under the terms of the 2023 Plan in connection with certain changes in capitalization and reorganization events, we may not (i) amend any outstanding option or SAR granted under the 2023 Plan to provide an exercise price or measurement price per share that is lower than the then-current exercise price or measurement price per share of such outstanding option or SAR, (ii) cancel any outstanding option or SAR (whether or not granted under the 2023 Plan) and grant in substitution therefor new awards under the 2023 Plan (other than certain substitute awards issued in connection with a merger or consolidation of an entity with us or an acquisition by us, described above) covering the same or a different number of shares of our Common Stock and having an exercise price or measurement price per share lower than the then-current exercise price or measurement price per share of the cancelled option or SAR, (iii) cancel in exchange for a cash payment any outstanding option or SAR with an exercise price or measurement price per share above the then-current fair market value of our Common Stock, or (iv) take any other action under the 2023 Plan that constitutes a “repricing” within the meaning of the rules of the Nasdaq Stock Market or any other exchange or marketplace on which the Company’s stock is listed or traded.

Restricted Stock Awards. A participant who is granted a restricted stock award is entitled to acquire shares of our Common Stock, subject to our right to repurchase all or part of such shares at their issue price or other stated or formula price (or to require forfeiture of such shares if issued at no cost) in the event that the conditions specified in the applicable award are not satisfied prior to the end of the applicable restriction period established for such award. Any dividends (whether paid in cash, stock or property) declared and paid by us with respect to shares of restricted stock will be paid to the participant only if and when such shares become free from the restrictions on transferability and forfeitability that apply to such shares. No interest will be paid on unvested dividends.

Restricted Stock Unit Awards. A participant who is granted an RSU award is entitled to receive shares of our Common Stock, or cash equal to the fair market value of such shares or a combination thereof, to be delivered at the time such award vests or on a deferred basis pursuant to the terms and conditions established by our Board of Directors. Our Board of Directors may provide that settlement of RSUs will be deferred, on a mandatory basis or at the election of the participant, in a manner that complies with Section 409A of the Code. A participant has no voting rights with respect to any RSU. An RSU award agreement may provide the applicable participant with the

 

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right to receive an amount equal to any dividends or other distributions declared and paid on an equal number of outstanding shares of our Common Stock. Any such dividend equivalents may be settled in cash and/or shares of our Common Stock and will be subject to the same restrictions on transfer and forfeitability as the RSUs with respect to which such dividend equivalents are awarded. No interest will be paid on dividend equivalents.

Other Stock-Based Awards. Under the 2023 Plan, our Board of Directors may grant other awards of shares of our Common Stock, and other awards that are valued in whole or in part by reference to, or are otherwise based on, shares of our Common Stock or other property, having such terms and conditions as our Board of Directors may determine. We refer to these types of awards as other stock-based awards. Other stock-based awards may be available as a form of payment in settlement of other awards granted under the 2023 Plan or as payment in lieu of compensation to which a participant is otherwise entitled. Other stock-based awards may be paid in shares of our Common Stock or in cash, as our Board of Directors may determine. The award agreement of an other stock-based award may provide the participant who receives that award of an other stock-based award with the right to receive dividend equivalents. Dividend equivalents may be settled in cash and/or shares of our Common Stock and will be subject to the same restrictions on transfer and forfeitability as the other stock-based award with respect to which they are awarded. No interest will be paid on dividend equivalents.

Cash Awards. Under the 2023 Plan, the Board of Directors has the right to grant cash-based awards including awards subject to performance conditions.

Performance Conditions. Awards under the 2023 Plan may be made subject to the achievement of performance goals. Our Board of Directors may specify that the degree of granting, vesting and/or payout of any award subject to performance-based vesting conditions will be subject to the achievement of one or more of the following performance measures established by the Board of Directors, which may be based on the relative or absolute attainment of specified levels of one or any combination of the following measures (and which may be determined pursuant to generally accepted accounting principles, or GAAP, or on a non-GAAP basis, as determined by the Board of Directors): (i) the entry into an arrangement or agreement with a third party for the development, commercialization, marketing or distribution of products, services or technologies, or for conducting a research program to discover and develop a product, service or technology, and/or the achievement of milestones under such arrangement or agreement, including events that trigger an obligation or payment right; (ii) achievement of domestic and international regulatory milestones, including the submission of filings required to advance products, services and technologies in clinical development and the achievement of approvals by regulatory authorities relating to the commercialization of products, services and technologies; (iii) the achievement of discovery, preclinical and clinical stage scientific objectives, discoveries or inventions for products, services and technologies under research and development; (iv) the entry into or completion of phase 1, 2 and/or 3 clinical trials; (v) the consummation of debt or equity financing transactions, or acquisitions of business, technologies and assets; (vi) new product or service releases; (vii) the achievement of qualitative or quantitative performance measures set forth in operating plans approved by the Board of Directors from time to time; (viii) net income, earnings before or after discontinued operations, interest, taxes, depreciation and/or amortization, operating profit before or after discontinued operations and/or taxes, sales, sales growth, earnings growth, cash flow or cash position, gross margins, stock price, market share, return on sales, assets, equity or investment; (ix) improvement of financial ratings; (x) achievement of balance sheet or income statement objectives; (xi) total stockholder return; and/or (xii) any other metric determined by the Board of Directors. Such goals may reflect absolute entity or business unit performance or a relative comparison to the performance of a peer group of entities or other external measure of the selected performance criteria and may be absolute in their terms or measured against or in relationship to other companies comparably, similarly or otherwise situated. The Board of Directors may specify that such performance measures will be adjusted to exclude any one or more of: (a) extraordinary items; (b) gains or losses on the dispositions of discontinued operations; (c) the cumulative effects of changes in accounting principles; (d) the write-down of any asset; (e) fluctuation in foreign currency exchange rates; (f) charges for restructuring and rationalization programs; (g) non-cash, mark-to-market adjustments on derivative instruments; (h) amortization of purchased intangibles; (i) the net impact of tax rate changes; (j) non-cash asset impairment charges; (k) gains on extinguishment of the tax receivable agreement; and

 

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(l) any other factors as the Board of Directors may determine. Such performance measures: (A) may vary by participant and may be different for different awards; (B) may be particular to a participant or the department, branch, line of business, subsidiary or other unit in which the participant works and (C) may cover such period as may be specified by the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors will have the authority to make equitable adjustments to the performance goals in recognition of unusual or non-recurring events affecting the Company or the financial statements of the Company, in response to changes in applicable laws or regulations or to account for items of gain, loss or expense determined to be extraordinary or unusual in nature or infrequent in occurrence or related to the disposal of a segment of a business or related to a change in accounting principles. Our Board of Directors may adjust the number of shares payable pursuant to a performance award, and our Board of Directors may, at any time, waive the achievement of the applicable performance measures. Notwithstanding its designation as a performance award, no option or SAR will provide for the payment or accrual of dividend equivalents, any dividends declared and paid by the Company with respect to shares of restricted stock will be subject to the same dividend rules for restricted stock awards not designated as a performance award and any right to receive dividend equivalents on an award of RSUs and other stock-based awards will be subject to the same dividend equivalent rules for such awards that are not designated as a performance award.

Eligibility to Receive Awards

All of our employees, officers, and directors, as well as our consultants and advisors, are eligible to receive awards under the 2023 Plan. However, incentive stock options may only be granted to our employees, employees of our present or future parent or subsidiary corporations as defined in Sections 424(e) or (f) of the Code, and employees of any other entities the employees of which are eligible to receive incentive stock options under the Code.

Transferability of Awards

Awards may not be sold, assigned, transferred, pledged or otherwise encumbered by a participant, either voluntarily or by operation of law, except by will or the laws of descent and distribution or, other than in the case of an incentive stock option, pursuant to a qualified domestic relations order. During the life of the participant, awards are exercisable only by the participant. However, except with respect to awards that are subject to Section 409A of the Code and incentive stock options, our Board of Directors may permit or provide in an award for the gratuitous transfer of the award by the participant to or for the benefit of any immediate family member, family trust or other entity established for the benefit of the participant and/or an immediate family member thereof if we would be eligible to use a Form S-8 under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, for the registration of the sale of the Common Stock subject to such award to the proposed transferee. Further, we are not required to recognize any such permitted transfer until such time as the permitted transferee has, as a condition to the transfer, delivered to us a written instrument in form and substance satisfactory to us confirming that such transferee will be bound by all of the terms and conditions of the award. None of the restrictions described in this paragraph prohibit a transfer from the participant to the Company.

No Rights as a Stockholder; Clawback

No participant or designated beneficiary shall have any rights as a stockholder with respect to any shares of Common Stock to be distributed with respect to an award granted under the 2023 Plan until becoming a record holder of such shares, subject to the terms of an award agreement. In accepting an award under the 2023 Plan, a participant agrees to be bound by any clawback policy that the Company has in effect or may adopt in the future.

Plan Benefits

As of March 31, 2023, approximately 256 persons were eligible to receive awards under the 2023 Plan, including our five named executive officers, or NEOs, who are current employees, 187 employees (excluding NEOs), seven non-employee directors, 40 consultants and 17 advisors (excluding consultants).

 

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On March 31, 2023, the last reported sale price of our Common Stock on the Nasdaq Capital Market was $0.5604.

New Plan Benefits Table

The granting of awards under the 2023 Plan is discretionary, and we cannot now determine the number or type of awards to be granted in the future to any particular person or group, other than as set forth below. We are obligated to grant each non-employee director an option to purchase 180,000 shares of Common Stock (subject to adjustment as provided in the 2023 Plan) upon initial election or appointment. On the date of each annual meeting, including the Annual Meeting, we are obligated to grant each non-employee director who has served on our Board of Directors for at least six months an option to purchase 45,000 shares of Common Stock (subject to adjustment as provided in the 2023 Plan) and 30,000 restricted stock units of the Company under the terms of our Current Non-Employee Director Compensation Policy.

If our stockholders do not approve the 2023 Plan, we will grant the equity awards to be made immediately following the Annual Meeting to the non-employee directors who are serving as members of our Board of Directors on the date of our Annual Meeting under the 2014 Plan.

 

Name and Position    Dollar
Value
    Number of
Shares of
Common
Stock
Underlying
Option
Awards
    Number of
Shares of
Common
Stock
Underlying
RSU
Awards
 

John P. Butler, President, Chief Executive Officer and Director

     —         —         —    

David A. Spellman, Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer

     —         —         —    

Steven K. Burke, M.D., Senior Vice President, Research & Development and Chief Medical Officer

     —         —         —    

Michel Dahan, Senior Vice President, Chief Operating Officer

     —         —         —    

Nicole R. Hadas, Senior Vice President, Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary

     —         —         —    

All current executive officers as a group

     —         —         —    

All current directors who are not executive officers as a group

     (1)      315,000 (2)      210,000 (2) 

All employees, including all current officers who are not executive officers, as a group

     —         —         —    

 

(1)

The dollar value of annual equity awards to be granted in 2023 to each non-employee director (as more fully described in footnote (2) below) is not determinable at this time as such awards will be determined based on the closing price on the Nasdaq Capital Market on the date of grant.

(2)

Under our Current Non-Employee Director Compensation Policy, each of our non-employee directors who has served on our Board of Directors for at least six months and is serving as member of our Board of Directors on the date of our Annual Meeting will receive an option to purchase 45,000 shares of Common Stock (subject to adjustment as provided in the 2023 Plan) and 30,000 restricted stock units of the Company. Excludes (i) equity awards that the non-employee directors will be entitled to receive under our Current Non-Employee Director Compensation Policy for years following 2023, and (ii) any discretionary equity awards that any non-employee director may be awarded under the 2023 Plan.

 

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Administration

The 2023 Plan will be administered by our Board of Directors. Our Board of Directors has the authority to grant awards and to adopt, amend and repeal the administrative rules, guidelines and practices relating to the 2023 Plan that it deems advisable and to construe and interpret the provisions of the 2023 Plan and any award agreements entered into under the 2023 Plan. Our Board of Directors may correct any defect, supply any omission or reconcile any inconsistency in the 2023 Plan or any award. All actions and decisions by our Board of Directors with respect to the 2023 Plan and any awards made under the 2023 Plan will be made in our Board of Directors’ discretion and will be final and binding on all persons having or claiming any interest in the 2023 Plan or in any award.

Pursuant to the terms of the 2023 Plan, our Board of Directors may delegate any or all of its powers under the 2023 Plan to one or more committees or subcommittees of our Board of Directors. The Board of Directors has authorized the Compensation Committee to administer certain aspects of the 2023 Plan. Awards granted to non-employee directors must be granted and administered by a committee of the Board of Directors, all of the members of which are independent directors as defined by Section 5605(a)(2) of the rules of the Nasdaq Stock Market.

Subject to any requirements of applicable law, the Board of Directors may, by resolution, delegate to one or more persons (including officers) or bodies (we refer to such persons or bodies, as the Delegated Persons) the power to grant awards (subject to any limitations under the 2023 Plan) to eligible service providers of the Company and to exercise such other powers under the 2023 Plan as the Board of Directors may determine, provided that the Board of Directors shall fix (i) the maximum number of awards, and the maximum number of shares issuable upon exercise thereof, that may be issued by such Delegated Persons, (ii) the time period during which such awards, and during which the shares issuable upon exercise thereof, may be issued, and (iii) the minimum amount of consideration (if any) for which such awards may be issued, and a minimum amount of consideration for the shares issuable upon exercise thereof; and provided further that (I) no Delegated Person shall be authorized to grant awards to itself, and (II) no Delegated Person shall be authorized to grant awards to any “executive officer” (as defined by Rule 3b-7 under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, referred to as the Exchange Act), or to any “officer” (as defined by Rule 16a-1(f) under the Exchange Act).

Subject to applicable limitations contained in the 2023 Plan, the Board of Directors, the Compensation Committee, or any other committee or subcommittee or Delegated Person to whom the Board of Directors has delegated authority pursuant to the 2023 Plan, as the case may be, selects the recipients of awards and determines (i) the number of shares of Common Stock, cash or other consideration covered by awards and the terms and conditions of such awards, including the dates upon which such awards become exercisable or otherwise vest, (ii) the exercise or measurement price of awards, if any, and (iii) the duration of awards.

Except as otherwise provided in the 2023 Plan, each award under the 2023 Plan may be made alone or in addition or in relation to any other award. The terms of each award need not be identical, and our Board of Directors need not treat participants uniformly. Our Board of Directors will determine the effect on an award of the disability, death, termination or other cessation of employment or service, authorized leave of absence or other change in the employment or other service status of a participant, and the extent to which, and the period during which, the participant (or the participant’s legal representative, conservator, guardian or designated beneficiary) may exercise rights or receive any benefits under an award.

The Board of Directors may at any time provide that any award shall become immediately exercisable in whole or in part, free from some or all restrictions or conditions or otherwise realizable in whole or in part, as the case may be.

In the event of any stock split, reverse stock split, stock dividend, recapitalization, combination of shares, reclassification of shares, spin-off or other similar change in capitalization or event, or any dividend or

 

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distribution to holders of our Common Stock, other than an ordinary cash dividend, we are required to make equitable adjustments (or make substituted awards, as applicable), in the manner determined by our Board of Directors, to (i) the number and class of securities available under the 2023 Plan, (ii) the share counting rules set forth in the 2023 Plan, (iii) the number and class of securities and exercise price per share of each outstanding option, (iv) the share- and per-share provisions and the measurement price of each outstanding SAR, (v) the number of shares subject to and the repurchase price per share subject to each outstanding award of restricted stock, and (vi) the share and per-share-related provisions and the purchase price, if any, of each outstanding RSU award and each outstanding other stock-based award. In the event we effect a split of our Common Stock by means of a stock dividend and the exercise price of and the number of shares subject to an outstanding option are adjusted as of the date of the distribution of the dividend (rather than as of the record date for such dividend), then a participant who exercises an option between the record date and the distribution date for such stock dividend shall be entitled to receive, on the distribution date, the stock dividend with respect to the shares of Common Stock acquired upon such option exercise, notwithstanding the fact that such shares were not outstanding as of the close of business on the record date for such stock dividend.

We will indemnify and hold harmless each director, officer, employee or agent to whom any duty or power relating to the administration or interpretation of the 2023 Plan has been or will be delegated against any cost or expense (including attorneys’ fees) or liability (including any sum paid in settlement of a claim with our Board of Directors’ approval) arising out of any act or omission to act concerning the 2023 Plan unless arising out of such person’s own fraud or bad faith.

Amendment of Awards. Except as otherwise provided under the 2023 Plan with respect to repricing outstanding stock options or SARs and with respect to actions requiring stockholder approval, our Board of Directors may amend, modify or terminate any outstanding award, including but not limited to, substituting therefor another award of the same or a different type, changing the date of exercise or realization, and converting an incentive stock option to a nonstatutory stock option, provided that the participant’s consent to any such action will be required unless our Board of Directors determines that the action, taking into account any related action, does not materially and adversely affect the participant’s rights under the 2023 Plan or the change is otherwise permitted under the terms of the 2023 Plan in connection with certain corporate events.

Reorganization Events

The 2023 Plan contains provisions addressing the consequences of any reorganization event. A reorganization event is defined under the 2023 Plan as (i) any merger or consolidation of us with or into another entity as a result of which all of our Common Stock is converted into or exchanged for the right to receive cash, securities or other property, or is cancelled, (ii) any transfer or disposition of all of our Common Stock for cash, securities or other property pursuant to a share exchange or other transaction or (iii) our liquidation or dissolution.

Provisions Applicable to Awards Other than Restricted Stock. Under the 2023 Plan, if a reorganization event occurs, our Board of Directors may take any one or more of the following actions as to all or any (or any portion of) outstanding awards other than restricted stock on such terms as our Board of Directors determines (except to the extent specifically provided otherwise in an applicable award agreement or another agreement between a participant and us): (i) provide that such awards shall be assumed, or substantially equivalent awards shall be substituted, by the acquiring or succeeding corporation (or an affiliate thereof), (ii) upon written notice to a participant, provide that all of the participant’s unvested awards will be forfeited immediately before the reorganization event and/or that all of the participant’s unexercised awards will terminate immediately prior to the consummation of such reorganization event unless exercised by the participant (to the extent then exercisable) within a specified period following the date of such notice, (iii) provide that outstanding awards shall become exercisable, realizable, or deliverable, or restrictions applicable to an award shall lapse, in whole or in part prior to or upon such reorganization event, (iv) in the event of a reorganization event under the terms of which holders of our Common Stock will receive upon consummation thereof a cash payment for each share

 

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surrendered in the reorganization event, which we refer to as the Acquisition Price, make or provide for a cash payment to participants with respect to each award held by a participant equal to (I) the number of shares of our Common Stock subject to the vested portion of the award (after giving effect to any acceleration of vesting that occurs upon or immediately prior to such reorganization event) multiplied by (II) the excess, if any, of (A) the Acquisition Price over (B) the exercise, measurement or purchase price of such award and any applicable tax withholdings, in exchange for the termination of such award, provided, that if the Acquisition Price per share (as determined by our Board of Directors) does not exceed the exercise price of the award, then the award will be cancelled without any payment of consideration, (v) provide that, in connection with our liquidation or dissolution, awards shall convert into the right to receive liquidation proceeds (if applicable, net of the exercise, measurement or purchase price thereof and any applicable tax withholdings) and (vi) any combination of the foregoing.

Our Board of Directors is not obligated to treat all awards, all awards held by a participant, or all awards of the same type, identically. Certain RSU awards that are subject to Section 409A of the Code will be settled in accordance with the terms of the applicable award agreement or as otherwise specified in the 2023 Plan. Our Board of Directors, with reasonable notice to participants holding options or SARs, may impose a limitation on the ability of these participants to exercise their awards for the minimum number of days prior to the closing of the reorganization event as is reasonably necessary to facilitate the orderly closing of the reorganization event.

Provisions Applicable to Restricted Stock. Upon the occurrence of a reorganization event other than our liquidation or dissolution, our repurchase and other rights with respect to outstanding restricted stock will inure to the benefit of our successor and will, unless our Board of Directors determines otherwise, apply to the cash, securities or other property which our Common Stock was converted into or exchanged for pursuant to such reorganization event in the same manner and to the same extent as they applied to such restricted stock. However, our Board of Directors may either provide for termination or deemed satisfaction of such repurchase or other rights under the instrument evidencing any restricted stock or any other agreement between a participant and us, either initially or by amendment or provide for forfeiture of such restricted stock if issued at no cost. Upon the occurrence of a reorganization event involving our liquidation or dissolution, except to the extent specifically provided to the contrary in the instrument evidencing any award of restricted stock or any other agreement between the participant and us, all restrictions and conditions on all restricted stock then outstanding shall automatically be deemed terminated or satisfied.

Provisions for Foreign Participants

The Board of Directors may establish one or more sub-plans under the 2023 Plan to satisfy applicable securities, tax or other laws of various jurisdictions. The Board of Directors will establish such sub-plans by adopting supplements to the 2023 Plan containing any limitations on the Board of Directors’ discretion under the 2023 Plan and any additional terms and conditions not otherwise inconsistent with the 2023 Plan as the Board of Directors deems necessary or desirable. All supplements adopted by the Board of Directors will be deemed to be part of the 2023 Plan, but each supplement will only apply to participants within the affected jurisdiction.

Withholding

The participant must satisfy all applicable federal, state, and local or other income and employment tax withholding obligations before we will deliver stock certificates or otherwise recognize ownership of Common Stock under an award. We may elect to satisfy the withholding obligations through additional withholding on salary or wages. If we elect not to or cannot withhold from other compensation, the participant must pay us the full amount, if any, required for withholding or have a broker tender to us cash equal to the withholding obligations. Payment of withholding obligations is due before we will issue any shares on exercise, vesting or release from forfeiture of an award or at the same time as payment of the exercise or purchase price, unless we determine otherwise. If provided for in an award or approved by the Board of Directors, a participant may satisfy the tax obligations in whole or in part by delivery (either by actual delivery or attestation) of shares of Common

 

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Stock, including shares retained from the award creating the tax obligation, valued at their fair market value. However, except as otherwise provided by the Board of Directors, that the total tax withholding where stock is being used to satisfy such tax obligations cannot exceed our minimum statutory withholding obligations (based on minimum statutory withholding rates for federal and state tax purposes, including payroll taxes, that are applicable to such supplemental taxable income), except that, to the extent that we are able to retain shares of Common Stock having a fair market value that exceeds the statutory minimum applicable withholding tax without financial accounting implications or we are withholding in a jurisdiction that does not have a statutory minimum withholding tax, we may retain such number of shares (up to the number of shares having a fair market value equal to the maximum individual statutory rate of tax) as we shall determine to be necessary to satisfy the tax liability associated with any award. Shares used to satisfy tax withholding requirements cannot be subject to any repurchase, forfeiture, unfulfilled vesting or other similar requirements.

Amendment or Termination

If we receive stockholder approval of the 2023 Plan, no award may be granted under the 2023 Plan after June 6, 2033, but awards previously granted may extend beyond that date. Our Board of Directors may amend, suspend or terminate the 2023 Plan or any portion of the 2023 Plan at any time, except that (i) no amendment may be made to the plan to permit an option or SAR to be repriced without stockholder approval and (ii) no amendment that would require stockholder approval under the rules of the national securities exchange on which we maintain our primary listing may be made effective unless and until such amendment has been approved by our stockholders. If the national securities exchange on which we maintain our primary listing does not have rules regarding when stockholder approval of amendments to equity compensation plans is required (or if our Common Stock is not then listed on any national securities exchange), no amendment of the 2023 Plan materially increasing the number of shares authorized under the plan (other than as provided under the 2023 Plan with respect to certain corporate events or substitute awards), expanding the types of awards that may be granted under the plan or materially expanding the class of participants eligible to participate in the plan will be effective unless and until our stockholders approve such amendment. If at any time the approval of our stockholders is required as to any other modification or amendment under Section 422 of the Code or any successor provision with respect to incentive stock options, our Board of Directors may not effect such modification or amendment without such approval. Unless otherwise specified in the amendment, any amendment to the 2023 Plan adopted in accordance with the procedures described above will apply to, and be binding on the holders of, all awards outstanding under the 2023 Plan at the time the amendment is adopted, provided that our Board of Directors determines that such amendment, taking into account any related action, does not materially and adversely affect the rights of participants under the 2023 Plan. No award will be made that is conditioned on stockholder approval of any amendment to the 2023 Plan unless the award provides that (i) it will terminate or be forfeited if stockholder approval of such amendment is not obtained within no more than 12 months from the date the award was granted and (ii) it may not be exercised or settled (or otherwise result in the issuance of shares of our Common Stock) prior to the receipt of such stockholder approval.

If stockholders do not approve the 2023 Plan, the 2023 Plan will not go into effect, and we will not grant any awards under the 2023 Plan. In this event, the Board of Directors will consider whether to adopt alternative arrangements based on its assessment of our needs.

Federal Income Tax Consequences

The following is a summary of the United States federal income tax consequences that generally will arise with respect to awards granted under the 2023 Plan. This summary is based on the federal tax laws in effect as of the date of this Proxy Statement. In addition, this summary assumes that all awards are exempt from, or comply with, the rules under Section 409A of the Code regarding nonqualified deferred compensation. Changes to these laws could alter the tax consequences described below.

Incentive Stock Options. A participant will not have income upon the grant of an incentive stock option. Also, except as described below, a participant will not have income upon exercise of an incentive stock option if

 

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the participant has been employed by the Company or its corporate parent or 50% or majority-owned corporate subsidiary at all times beginning with the option grant date and ending three months before the date the participant exercises the option. If the participant has not been so employed during that time, then the participant will be taxed as described below under “Nonstatutory Stock Options.” The exercise of an incentive stock option may subject the participant to the alternative minimum tax.

A participant will have income upon the sale of the stock acquired under an incentive stock option at a profit (if sales proceeds exceed the exercise price). The type of income will depend on when the participant sells the stock. If a participant sells the stock more than two years after the option was granted and more than one year after the option was exercised, then all of the profit will be long-term capital gain. If a participant sells the stock prior to satisfying these waiting periods, then the participant will have engaged in a disqualifying disposition and a portion of the profit will be ordinary income and a portion may be capital gain. This capital gain will be long-term if the participant has held the stock for more than one year and otherwise will be short-term. If a participant sells the stock at a loss (sales proceeds are less than the exercise price), then the loss will be a capital loss. This capital loss will be long-term if the participant held the stock for more than one year and otherwise will be short-term.

Nonstatutory Stock Options. A participant will not have income upon the grant of a nonstatutory stock option. A participant will have compensation income upon the exercise of a nonstatutory stock option equal to the value of the stock on the day the participant exercised the option less the exercise price. Upon sale of the stock, the participant will have capital gain or loss equal to the difference between the sales proceeds and the value of the stock on the day the option was exercised. This capital gain or loss will be long-term if the participant has held the stock for more than one year and otherwise will be short-term.

Stock Appreciation Rights. A participant will not have income upon the grant of a SAR. A participant generally will recognize compensation income upon the exercise of a SAR equal to the amount of the cash and the fair market value of any stock received. Upon the sale of the stock, the participant will have capital gain or loss equal to the difference between the sales proceeds and the value of the stock on the day the SAR was exercised. This capital gain or loss will be long-term if the participant held the stock for more than one year and otherwise will be short-term.

Restricted Stock Awards. A participant will not have income upon the grant of restricted stock unless an election under Section 83(b) of the Code is made within 30 days of the date of grant. If a timely 83(b) election is made, then a participant will have compensation income equal to the value of the stock less the purchase price, if any. When the stock is sold, the participant will have capital gain or loss equal to the difference between the sales proceeds and the value of the stock on the date of grant. If the participant does not make an 83(b) election, then when the stock vests the participant will have compensation income equal to the value of the stock on the vesting date less the purchase price, if any. When the stock is sold, the participant will have capital gain or loss equal to the sales proceeds less the value of the stock on the vesting date. Any capital gain or loss will be long-term if the participant held the stock for more than one year and otherwise will be short-term.

Restricted Stock Units. A participant will not have income upon the grant of an RSU. A participant is not permitted to make a Section 83(b) election with respect to an RSU award. When the shares of Common Stock are delivered with respect to the RSUs (which may be upon vesting or may be at a later date), the participant will have income on the date of delivery in an amount equal to the fair market value of the stock on such date less the purchase price, if any. When the stock is sold, the participant will have capital gain or loss equal to the sales proceeds less the value of the stock on the delivery date. Any capital gain or loss will be long-term if the participant held the stock for more than one year and otherwise will be short-term.

Other Stock-Based Awards. The tax consequences associated with any other stock-based award granted under the 2023 Plan will vary depending on the specific terms of such award. Among the relevant factors are whether or not the award has a readily ascertainable fair market value, whether or not the award is subject to

 

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forfeiture provisions or restrictions on transfer, the nature of the property to be received by the participant under the award, and the participant’s holding period and tax basis for the award or underlying Common Stock.

Tax Consequences to the Company. There will be no tax consequences to the Company except that the Company will be entitled to a deduction when a participant has compensation income, subject to the limitations of Section 162(m) of the Code.

THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS UNANIMOUSLY RECOMMENDS THAT STOCKHOLDERS VOTE “FOR” THE APPROVAL OF THE AKEBIA THERAPEUTICS, INC. 2023 STOCK INCENTIVE PLAN.

(PROPOSAL 2 ON YOUR PROXY CARD)

 

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PROPOSAL 3—ADVISORY VOTE ON THE COMPENSATION OF NAMED EXECUTIVE OFFICERS

We are providing our stockholders the opportunity to vote to approve, on an advisory, non-binding basis, the compensation of our executive officers named in the “2022 Summary Compensation Table” under “Executive Compensation,” who we refer to as our “named executive officers,” as disclosed in this Proxy Statement in accordance with the SEC’s rules and regulations. This proposal, which is commonly referred to as “say-on-pay,” is required to be included in this Proxy Statement pursuant to Section 14(a) of the Exchange Act. Section 14(a) of the Exchange Act also requires that stockholders have the periodic opportunity to cast an advisory vote with respect to whether future executive compensation advisory votes will be held every one, two or three years. At the Company’s 2020 annual meeting of stockholders, stockholders voted to hold an advisory vote every year.

As described in detail in the “Compensation Discussion and Analysis” section of this Proxy Statement, our overall executive compensation program is designed to attract, motivate and retain our named executive officers, who are critical to our success. Under this program, our named executive officers’ compensation is based on the achievement of key strategic and business goals that were developed based on the Company’s mission and core values. The program consists of a combination of base salary, an annual cash bonus, long-term equity incentive compensation, other employee benefits generally available to our employees and, for 2021 and 2022, special cash bonuses, and is designed to align our executive compensation program with the interests of our stockholders by reflecting a pay-for-performance philosophy that supports our business strategy. At the same time, the Board of Directors believes that the program does not encourage excessive risk-taking by management. The “Executive Compensation” section of this Proxy Statement beginning on page 42, including “Compensation Discussion and Analysis,” describes the executive compensation program and the decisions made by the Compensation Committee and the Board of Directors with respect to the compensation for our named executive officers for the year ended December 31, 2022.

The Board of Directors is asking stockholders to approve a non-binding advisory vote on the following resolution:

RESOLVED, that the compensation paid to the Company’s named executive officers, as disclosed pursuant to the compensation disclosure rules of the Securities and Exchange Commission, including the Compensation Discussion and Analysis, the compensation tables and any related material disclosed in this proxy statement, is hereby approved.

As an advisory vote, this proposal is not binding. The outcome of this advisory vote does not overrule any decision by the Company or the Board of Directors (or any committee thereof), create or imply any change to the fiduciary duties of the Company or the Board of Directors (or any committee thereof), or create or imply any additional fiduciary duties for the Company or the Board of Directors (or any committee thereof). However, our Compensation Committee and Board of Directors value the opinions expressed by our stockholders in their vote on this proposal and will consider the outcome of the vote when making future compensation decisions for named executive officers.

THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS UNANIMOUSLY RECOMMENDS THAT YOU VOTE “FOR” THE APPROVAL, ON AN ADVISORY BASIS, OF THE COMPENSATION OF OUR NAMED EXECUTIVE OFFICERS.

(PROPOSAL 3 ON YOUR PROXY CARD)

 

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EXECUTIVE OFFICERS

Below is the biographical information of the individuals who serve as our executive officers as of April 28, 2023.

 

Name

  Age    

Position

John P. Butler

    58     President, Chief Executive Officer and Director

David A. Spellman

    46     Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer

Steven K. Burke, M.D.

    62     Senior Vice President, Research & Development and Chief Medical Officer

Michel Dahan (1)

    44     Senior Vice President, Chief Operating Officer

Nicole R. Hadas (1)

    50     Senior Vice President, Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary

 

(1)

As previously disclosed, we entered into a retention and separation agreement with each of Mr. Dahan and Ms. Hadas. Pursuant to the retention and separation agreements, each of Mr. Dahan and Ms. Hadas will separate from the Company effective as of May 5, 2023, or, in the event of certain specified events, the effective date of their separation may extend to October 20, 2023. Please see the discussion of the retention and separation agreements under the heading “Retention and Separation Agreements”.

John P. Butler’s biography is included under “Director Biographies—Class II Directors” above.

David A. Spellman joined Akebia in June 2020 and is Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer. Mr. Spellman has two decades of strategic and operational finance experience in fast growing companies within the biopharmaceutical and healthcare industries. From November 2019 to June 2020, Mr. Spellman served as the Chief Financial Officer and Chief Business Officer of Intarcia Therapeutics, Inc., or Intarcia, a biopharmaceutical company, where he oversaw a wide range of company initiatives, including business development, strategic planning, information technology and the Project Management Office. Mr. Spellman previously served as the Chief Business Officer of Intarcia from June to November 2019. From March 2018 to June 2019, Mr. Spellman served as the Chief Financial Officer of Mersana Therapeutics, Inc., a clinical stage antibody drug conjugate company. From February 2006 to March 2018, Mr. Spellman served in roles of increasing responsibility at Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Inc., or Vertex, a global biopharmaceutical company, the most recent of which were Vice President, Corporate, Commercial and International Finance, from February 2017 to March 2018, and Vice President, International Finance and Accounting, from February 2015 to January 2017. While at Vertex, Mr. Spellman helped establish Vertex’s international headquarters, business operations and integrated finance teams in over a dozen countries, and he supported the global pricing, reimbursement and launches of Kalydeco® (ivacaftor) and Orkambi® (lumacaftor/ivacaftor), and the U.S. launch of INCIVEK (telaprevir). Prior to Vertex, Mr. Spellman spent four years at Millennium, a biopharmaceutical company, where he held several positions on the finance team, including operating as a member of the VELCADE® (bortezomib) launch team. Mr. Spellman received a B.S. in economics from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

Steven K. Burke, M.D. joined Akebia as Senior Vice President, Chief Medical Officer in August 2019. Prior to joining Akebia, from August 2006 to July 2019, Dr. Burke served as Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of Proteon Therapeutics, Inc., a company developing therapeutics focused on patients with kidney and vascular diseases. From 2001 to 2006, Dr. Burke served as Senior Vice President of Medical and Regulatory Affairs at Genzyme. From 1994 to 2000, Dr. Burke held roles at GelTex Pharmaceuticals, Inc. including Vice President of Clinical Research and Medical Director, and before that he held positions at Glaxo, Inc. Dr. Burke received an A.B. from Harvard College and an M.D. from Cornell University Medical College. He completed a medical residency and fellowship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine.

Michel Dahan joined Akebia in December 2013 and is Senior Vice President, Chief Operating Officer. Previously, Mr. Dahan was Akebia’s Senior Vice President, Chief Business Officer from December 2013 to

 

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January 2020. Prior to joining Akebia, from 2010 to 2013, Mr. Dahan held various positions at Inspiration Biopharmaceuticals, Inc., most recently as Vice President, Commercial Development and Strategic Planning, and led global marketing and commercial development in preparation for two global launches. In January 2023, Mr. Dahan was appointed a member of the board of Alkeus Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a privately held biopharmaceutical company developing transformative therapies to prevent blindness. Prior to that, from 2003 to 2010, Mr. Dahan served in various roles for Ipsen Bioscience, Inc., or Ipsen, most recently as International Product Director, working on global marketing and strategic planning for their hemophilia franchise, and Strategic Planning Director. Previously, he was in Global Business Development and Licensing for Ipsen. He began his career at BNP Paribas in the investment banking division in 2002. He earned his graduate degree in business administration at HEC Paris (France), his maitrise in mathematics from University Paris VI (France), and he completed an executive education program (PLD) at Harvard Business School.

Nicole R. Hadas joined Akebia in December 2013 and is Senior Vice President, Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary. Prior to joining Akebia, Ms. Hadas was Vice President and General Counsel at OvaScience, Inc., a biotechnology company focused on female infertility, from September 2013 to November 2013. Previously, Ms. Hadas served as Senior Vice President and General Counsel at Inspiration Biopharmaceuticals, Inc. From 2001 to 2011, Ms. Hadas worked at Genzyme as Senior Corporate Counsel. Prior to Genzyme, Ms. Hadas worked as an associate at Foley Hoag LLP representing biopharmaceutical companies and healthcare providers in a wide variety of matters. Ms. Hadas received a B.A. from the University of Michigan and a J.D. from Boston College Law School.

 

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EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION

Compensation Discussion and Analysis

This section discusses the material elements of our executive compensation policies and decisions for our executive officers named in the “2023 Summary Compensation Table” below, referred to herein as our “named executive officers,” and important factors relevant to an analysis of these policies and decisions. It provides qualitative information regarding the manner and context in which compensation is awarded to and earned by our named executive officers and is intended to place in perspective the information presented in the following tables and the corresponding narrative.

Our named executive officers for the year ended December 31, 2022 are as follows:

 

   

John P. Butler, President and Chief Executive Officer;

 

   

David A. Spellman, Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer;

 

   

Steven K. Burke, M.D., Senior Vice President, Research & Development and Chief Medical Officer;

 

   

Michel Dahan, Senior Vice President, Chief Operating Officer; and

 

   

Nicole R. Hadas, Senior Vice President, Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary.

Executive Summary

Our Company

We are a fully integrated biopharmaceutical company committed to addressing patients’ unmet needs. Since our initial public offering in 2014, we have built a business focused on developing and commercializing innovative therapeutics that we believe serve as a foundation for future growth. Our purpose is to better the life of each person impacted by kidney disease, and we have established ourselves as a leader in the kidney community. We believe our demonstrated ability to deliver value broadly to the kidney community has enabled us to build a sustainable company. While our current focus centers on people living with kidney disease, we believe our continued commitment to our products and pipeline assets, focusing on all patients who can realize a meaningful benefit from our medicines, will result in delivering value for stockholders.

Our current portfolio includes:

 

   

Auryxia® (ferric citrate), a medicine approved and marketed in the United States for two indications: (1) the control of serum phosphorus levels in adult patients with dialysis dependent chronic kidney disease, and (2) the treatment of iron deficiency anemia in adult patients with non-dialysis-dependent chronic kidney disease. The product is also available in Japan and Taiwan.

 

   

Vafseo (vadadustat), an oral hypoxia-inducible factor prolyl hydroxylase, or HIF-PH, inhibitor, is approved in Europe for the treatment of anemia due to chronic kidney disease, or CKD, in adult patients on dialysis. Vadadustat is also approved in Japan for the treatment of anemia due to CKD in adult patients on dialysis and not on dialysis. Additionally, vadadustat is approved in Korea as an anemia treatment for patients with CKD on hemodialysis. Vadadustat is also under regulatory review for the treatment of anemia due to CKD in Australia, Taiwan and other countries. We continue to pursue a path to potentially gain approval for vadadustat in the U.S. Further, we have several lifecycle management and indication expansion opportunities currently under evaluation or in development for vadadustat.

 

   

HIF-PH inhibitors in preclinical development. The discovery of hypoxia-inducible factor, or HIF, laid the foundation to explore the central role of oxygen sensing in many diseases. As we have seen through the development of vadadustat as a treatment for anemia due to CKD, when stabilized, HIF triggers wide-ranging adaptive, protective responses during hypoxic or ischemic conditions. Our clinical team

 

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and research scientists are eager to further develop HIF-PH inhibitors for various indications including acute kidney injury and retinopathy of prematurity.

In addition, we continue to explore additional commercial and development opportunities to expand our pipeline and portfolio of novel therapeutics through both internal research and external innovation to leverage our fully integrated team.

Key Compensation Decisions and Actions in 2022

The Board of Directors and the Compensation Committee took several actions in 2022 and the first three months of 2023 taking into account our compensation philosophy and objectives, the needs and performance of our Company, individual performance, and other factors such as market data and industry best practices.

 

   

Base Salary Adjustments. The Board of Directors, upon recommendation by the Compensation Committee, reviewed and approved the base salary of our Chief Executive Officer, and the Compensation Committee reviewed and approved the base salaries of our other named executive officers in early 2022. Each of our named executive officers received annual merit-based salary adjustments to reflect their performance and contributions and to maintain reasonable positioning relative to our peer companies.

 

   

Annual Cash Bonus. In early 2022, the Board of Directors, upon recommendation by the Compensation Committee, approved certain performance goal categories with specific goals falling into each category, each with its own weighting to reflect their importance to our business. These goals relate to value creation for vadadustat and Auryxia, as well as financial objectives, pipeline and people. In early 2023, the Board of Directors, upon recommendation by the Compensation Committee, reviewed our achievements against our 2022 corporate goals and approved the achievement of 94.5% of our 2022 corporate goals. The annual cash bonuses paid to our named executive officers in early 2023 for 2022 performance were based entirely on the achievement of these corporate performance goals.

 

   

Retention Awards. In April and May 2022, to incentivize and retain certain members of the senior management team, the Board of Directors and the Compensation Committee, as applicable, approved a retention award program which applied to each named executive officer. The retention program had two primary features: (i) grants of options and/or RSUs subject to time-based or performance vesting and our standard equity grant terms, which grants were made in May and June 2022, and/or (ii) a retention cash bonus opportunity tied to achievement of certain applicable milestones.

 

   

Long-Term Incentives. In early 2022, the Board of Directors, upon recommendation by the Compensation Committee, approved annual grants of time-based stock options and RSUs to our Chief Executive Officer, and the Compensation Committee approved grants of time-based stock options and RSUs to our other named executive officers.

Compensation Design

Compensation Philosophy and Objectives

In 2022, our named executive officer compensation policies and programs were designed to pay for performance that reflects the Company’s mission and core values. Within this overarching principle, there are a number of key objectives underpinning our 2022 named executive officer compensation program:

 

   

Attract and retain individuals who we believe best represent our core values and can make significant contributions towards achieving our purpose of bettering the life of each person impacted by kidney disease;

 

   

Motivate and reward individuals for attaining corporate performance goals that support our purpose; and

 

   

Foster long-term alignment of executive officer, stockholder and other stakeholder interests.

 

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Alignment with Company Strategy, Mission and Core Values

Our named executive officer compensation policies have reinforced our compensation philosophy. While fixed compensation, such as base salary and benefits, are primarily designed to be competitive in the biopharmaceutical marketplace for employees, a substantial portion of our named executive officers’ compensation is linked to achieving scientific, business, organizational and operational goals through means that reflect our mission and core values.

We provide a significant portion of our executive compensation in the form of long-term incentives, including stock options, RSUs, PSUs to Mr. Butler, Mr. Dahan and Ms. Hadas, performance-based stock options, and, to Mr. Butler, stock appreciation rights, in each case, that vest over time or, as applicable, are subject to achievement of a specified milestone. These equity awards are a key aspect of our compensation philosophy and serve to align the interests of our named executive officers with our stockholders, as they are tied to future increases or decreases in the value of our stock. Executive compensation declined significantly from 2020 to 2022 as a result of the decline in the Company’s share price. Further, we believe that equity awards with a time-based vesting feature promote retention because this feature incentivizes our named executive officers to remain in our employment during the vesting period. Additionally, we believe that equity awards with a performance-based vesting feature further incentivize our named executive officers to achieve important milestones. The annual cash bonuses paid to our named executive officers are based entirely on corporate performance goals established by the Board of Directors. Our executives make strategic decisions that influence the Company, and we believe it is appropriate to reward performance against corporate performance goals that are driven by adherence to our mission and core values.

The Board of Directors, in the case of the Chief Executive Officer, and the Compensation Committee, in the case of the other named executive officers, use a comparative framework to assess total compensation mix, but they do not have a pre-established policy for allocating total compensation. Rather, the Board of Directors and the Compensation Committee, as applicable, subjectively determine the appropriate level and mix of total compensation based on our compensation philosophy, peer group and broader market data, expected future contribution, experience, impact and individual performance.

We are committed to a pay for performance culture and philosophy that also reflects the Company’s mission and core values. Our Chief Executive Officer’s pay is primarily performance-based, reflecting performance against pre-established corporate performance goals and share price performance. As evidenced below, the realizable value of 2021 and 2022 compensation is well below the target value. The lower realizable value shown reflects long-term incentive values that were well below the fair value on the date of grant given our stock price

 

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performance during 2021 and 2022. We continue to structure our compensation so that it is highly sensitive to performance.

 

 

LOGO

 

(1)

Reflects annual salary, target bonus, and grant date fair value of long-term incentive awards.

(2)

Reflects annual salary, actual bonus, and “in-the-money” long-term incentive award values at December 31, 2021 and December 31, 2022, respectively

Primary Elements of our Annual Executive Compensation Program

The primary elements of our executive compensation program are:

 

Element    Purpose   Key Features and Timing
Base Salary    Provide competitive, fixed compensation to attract and retain top executive talent who we believe best represent our core values and can make significant contributions towards achieving our purpose of bettering the life of each person impacted by kidney disease  

•  Cash-based

 

•  Initial base salaries are set at the time of hire, and adjustments to base salaries are considered in conjunction with changes in job responsibilities or annually as part of our merit increase process

 

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Element    Purpose   Key Features and Timing
Annual Cash Bonus (at-risk cash)    Performance-contingent compensation to motivate and reward executives for attaining rigorous corporate performance goals that support our purpose of bettering the life of each person impacted by kidney disease  

•  Cash-based

 

•  Based entirely on achievement of corporate goals, in accordance with the Company’s then in effect Cash Incentive Plan

    

•  Generally measured and paid out on an annual basis, typically annually following the close of the previous fiscal year

Long-term Incentives (at risk equity)    Variable incentive compensation to promote equity performance, support retention and foster long-term alignment of executive and stakeholder interests  

•  Equity-based

 

•  Generally granted in a combination of annual time-based stock options and RSUs, but may include PSUs, performance-based stock options or stock appreciation rights, each of which vests over time

 

•  Based on blended peer group and broader market data, market competitiveness, expected future contribution, experience, impact and individual performance relative to similar positions within the Company

 

•  Generally granted at the time of hire, and annually following the close of the fiscal year in accordance with the terms of the 2014 Plan, though may also be granted on a non-recurring basis to incentivize the achievement of specific corporate goals or help retain executives

Benefits    Provide additional benefits to attract and retain top executive talent  

•  Includes payment of insurance premiums and other general benefits available to other employees

In addition, in 2021, the following was also offered to executives:

 

Element    Purpose   Key Features and Timing
Special Cash Bonus (mix of fixed and at-risk cash)    Compensation to motivate and reward individuals for their efforts with respect to vadadustat  

•  Cash-based

 

•  Immediate award based on recognition of specific contributions to date and potential future awards if pre-specified performance milestones are achieved

 

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Element    Purpose   Key Features and Timing
    

 

•  Special, non-recurring, awards in light of the efforts to meet specific future corporate milestones (paid in three tranches, one of which was paid in 2021 and the other two will be paid upon specific future corporate milestones)

    

•  Initial bonus subject to forfeiture if executive voluntarily terminates employment within 12 months of receipt of such bonus

Furthermore, in 2022, in connection with our workforce reductions announced in April 2022 and May 2022, equity incentive awards and/or cash was also offered to our named executive officers as follows:

 

Element    Purpose   Key Features and Timing
Retention Awards (equity and/or cash)    Compensation retention incentive  

•  Equity-based

 

•  A combination of stock options and/or RSUs, each of which vests over time or is subject to achievement of a specified milestone

 

•  Special, non-recurring retention grant

 

•  Cash-based

 

•  Time-based or based on achievement of certain milestones, in accordance with the Company’s then in effect Cash Incentive Plan

 

•  Special, non-recurring retention grant

 

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The total target compensation, which included base salary, target annual cash bonuses and equity incentive awards, for our Chief Executive Officer and our other named executive officers in 2022 is as shown in the charts below. The special cash bonuses, cash and equity-based retention awards and Mr. Spellman’s September 2021 option grant were not contemplated in target compensation and are therefore, not included in the charts below.

 

 

LOGO

2022 Compensation Decisions and Outcomes

Role of our Compensation Committee and Executive Officers

The Compensation Committee, comprised entirely of independent directors, is responsible for overseeing our compensation philosophy and operates under a written charter. Among other things, the role of the Compensation Committee is to seek to ensure that compensation decisions represent sound fiscal policy and enable us to attract and motivate qualified personnel, review and approve the compensation of executives other than our Chief Executive Officer, and recommend to the Board of Directors the compensation of the Chief Executive Officer and the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors retains authority to approve the compensation of our Chief Executive Officer, upon recommendation by the Compensation Committee.

The Compensation Committee conducts an annual review of the performance and compensation of each of our executive officers, including our Chief Executive Officer. In making its executive compensation determinations, the Compensation Committee and, if applicable, the full Board of Directors, considers recommendations from our Chief Executive Officer for our named executive officers (other than himself). In making his recommendations, our Chief Executive Officer has access to various third-party compensation surveys and compensation data provided by our Compensation Committee’s independent compensation consultant, as described below. While our Chief Executive Officer discusses his recommendations for the other named executive officers with the Compensation Committee, he does not participate in the deliberations concerning, or the determination of, his own compensation. Similarly, in making its recommendation to the Board of Directors on the compensation of the Chief Executive Officer, the Compensation Committee has access to various third-party compensation surveys and compensation data provided by the Compensation Committee’s independent compensation consultant, as described below. From time to time, various other members of management and

 

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other employees as well as outside advisors or consultants, including the Compensation Committee’s independent compensation consultant, may be invited by the Compensation Committee to make presentations, provide financial or other background information or advice or otherwise participate in Compensation Committee meetings. No named executive officer is present during voting or deliberations on his or her own compensation.

Say-on-Pay Advisory Vote and Stockholder Engagement

Each year, pursuant to Section 14(a) of the Exchange Act, we submit to our stockholders a proposal to vote, on an advisory, non-binding basis, to approve the compensation of our named executive officers disclosed in our Proxy Statement. We first held this vote at the 2020 annual meeting of stockholders. In addition, our stockholders voted that we hold such a vote every year.

In setting compensation, the Compensation Committee and the Board of Directors also consider the results of this “say-on-pay” vote. Based on the outcome of this vote in 2021, our stockholders significantly supported our executive officer compensation. In 2022, this proposal received the support of 83.31% of the votes cast. While the say-on-pay vote is advisory and not binding on the Company, we strongly value the opinions of our stockholders as expressed in the say-on-pay outcome and believe that stockholder say-on-pay approval demonstrates an alignment with our stockholders’ interests.

Engagement with our stockholders is very important to us. In 2022, members of the Company’s senior management team proactively reached out to our stockholders who were at that time holding 5% or more of the Company’s Common Stock to discuss our governance structure and key executive compensation practices, listen to their feedback and understand their governance priorities. We discussed the feedback from these stockholders with the Nominating and Governance Committee and the Board of Directors.

Role of our Independent Compensation Consultant

As a part of reviewing, recommending and determining, as applicable, compensation for our named executive officers for the year ended December 31, 2022, the Compensation Committee engaged Pearl Meyer as an independent compensation consultant. We first engaged Pearl Meyer during the second quarter of 2020. Pearl Meyer provided analyses and recommendations to the Compensation Committee regarding:

 

   

trends and emerging topics with respect to executive compensation;

 

   

peer group selection for executive compensation benchmarking;

 

   

compensation practices of our peer group;

 

   

compensation programs for executives, directors and all of our employees; and

 

   

stock utilization and related metrics.

Pearl Meyer was engaged by the Compensation Committee and periodically meets with certain members of the Company’s senior management team for purposes of gathering information for its analyses and recommendations. In addition, when requested, Pearl Meyer representatives attended meetings of the Compensation Committee, including executive sessions in which executive compensation issues were discussed.

In determining to engage Pearl Meyer, the Compensation Committee reviewed Pearl Meyer’s independence, taking into consideration relevant factors, including (i) the absence of other services provided to the Company by Pearl Meyer, (ii) the amount of fees the Company paid to Pearl Meyer as a percentage of Pearl Meyer’s total revenue, (iii) the policies and procedures of Pearl Meyer that are designed to prevent conflicts of interest, (iv) any business or personal relationship of the individual compensation advisors employed by Pearl Meyer with an executive officer of the Company or any member of the Compensation Committee, and (v) any stock of the

 

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Company owned by Pearl Meyer or the individual compensation advisors employed by Pearl Meyer. Our Compensation Committee determined, based on its analysis in light of all relevant factors, including the factors listed above, that the work of Pearl Meyer and the individual compensation advisors employed by Pearl Meyer as compensation consultants to the Compensation Committee has not created any conflicts of interest, and that Pearl Meyer is an independent compensation consultant pursuant to the independence standards set forth in The Nasdaq Capital Market listing standards promulgated pursuant to Section 10C of the Exchange Act.

Executive Compensation Process

The Compensation Committee compares our executive compensation against a peer group to determine market trends and competitiveness. On an annual basis, the Compensation Committee reviews the companies in our peer group, as well as the Compensation Committee consultant’s recommendations regarding which companies should be added to or removed from the peer group. The Compensation Committee may also adjust the peer group to ensure it properly reflects the market in which we compete for executive talent.

In 2021, the Compensation Committee retained Pearl Meyer to evaluate our executive compensation program and recommend a course of action for 2022. In determining the 2022 base salaries, annual cash bonuses and long-term incentives for our named executive officers, our Compensation Committee relied on the following peer group, or the 2022 Peer Group:

 

Agios Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

  Eagle Pharmaceuticals, Inc.   Pacira BioSciences, Inc.

Anika Therapeutics, Inc.

  Enanta Pharmaceuticals, Inc.   PTC Therapeutics, Inc.

Amicus Therapeutics, Inc.

  FibroGen, Inc.   Radius Health, Inc.(1)

Cara Therapeutics, Inc.

  Intercept Pharmaceuticals, Inc   Supernus Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Collegium Pharmaceutical, Inc.

  Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, Inc.   Travere Therapeutics, Inc.

Corcept Therapeutics Incorporated

  Karyopharm Therapeutics Inc.   Vanda Pharmaceuticals Inc.

 

(1)

Radius Health, Inc. was acquired by Gurnet Point Capital and Patient Square Capital in August 2022 and therefore was removed from the 2022 Peer Group at that time.

Acceleron Pharma Inc., AMAG Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Retrophin, Inc. and Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical Inc. were removed from the 2022 Peer Group because their market capitalization moved outside of our targeted range or due to M&A activity. Anika Therapeutics, Inc., Cara Therapeutics, Inc., Karyopharm Therapeutics Inc. and Travere Therapeutics, Inc. were added to the 2022 Peer Group.

Pearl Meyer focused on developing a peer group that:

 

   

comprised U.S. based public companies traded on a major exchange and operating in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, including companies in the greater Boston area;

 

   

captured comparable companies in terms of market capitalization, revenue, operating expenses employee size and stage of development;

 

   

allowed for a peer group that has, on balance, higher market valuations than the Company given the anticipated March 2022 FDA decision for vadadustat to potentially avoid wholesale changes to the peer group that could be shortsighted; and

 

   

is sensitive to the criteria proxy advisors will apply when determining their recommendations with respect to the advisory vote on executive compensation.

The 2022 Peer Group was developed using an objective process based on specific metrics that were used to evaluate and, as needed update, our approved peer group for 2021, including to identify potential new companies for inclusion. An initial group was evaluated based on U.S. based, biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies publicly traded on a major exchange beginning in 2019 or earlier. The group was further refined to focus on

 

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companies in a comparable range to our then market capitalization, revenue, operating expenses and headcount. Lastly, the group was filtered for companies in a same or similar stage of development, location and therapeutic area. The comparative statistics for the 2022 Peer Group were as follows:

 

     Market
Capitalization*
     Last Twelve Months
Revenue
Revenues*
     Full-time
Employees*
 

2022 Peer Group Median

   $ 1.2 billion      $ 254 million        301  

Akebia Therapeutics, Inc.

   $ 520 million      $ 222 million        379  

 

*

Market capitalization is as of September 7, 2021. Full-time employee data is as of fiscal year ended 2020, and Last Twelve Months Revenue is as of August 2021.

Based on the 2022 Peer Group, Pearl Meyer prepared an assessment that included executive pay levels and compensation practices described in SEC filings. To determine the appropriate market information, Pearl Meyer supplemented the executive pay levels and compensation information from the peer group that the Company approved for 2022, with a custom survey cut from the Radford Global Compensation Database. The custom cut was comprised of 34 comparably sized publicly traded commercial life sciences companies, which provides a broader market representation of companies and deeper position reporting. To arrive at competitive market compensation, market data collected from the peer group and data from comparably sized publicly traded commercial life sciences companies from the Radford Global Compensation Database was incorporated appropriately to form a composite assessment.

In analyzing and setting our executive compensation program for 2022, the Board of Directors and the Compensation Committee, as applicable, compared certain aspects of our named executive officers’ compensation to the compensation levels included in this market assessment. Based on the results of the assessment, the Board of Directors and the Compensation Committee, as applicable, determined that compensation levels for our named executive officers in 2022 generally reflected market competitive ranges for cash compensation, however the value of the previously approved 2022 long-term incentive grants were well below the market median given the Company’s stock price at the time the grants were approved and made.

Base Salaries

The base salary for our Chief Executive Officer is determined annually by the Board of Directors, upon recommendation by the Compensation Committee. Base salaries for our named executive officers other than our Chief Executive Officer are determined annually by our Compensation Committee pursuant to the Compensation Committee charter and Nasdaq rules. Each such determination is based on the scope of each officer’s responsibilities along with his or her respective experience and contributions to the Company during the prior year and the Company’s performance during the prior year. When reviewing base salaries, the Board of Directors and the Compensation Committee, as applicable, takes factors into account such as data provided by Pearl Meyer, specifically market median data, market competitiveness, expected future contribution, experience, impact and individual performance relative to similar positions within the Company, but does not assign any specific weighting to any factor.

 

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Based on its review of the factors described above, in January 2022, the Board of Directors and the Compensation Committee, as applicable, approved a 6% increase in each named executive officers’ base salary. The following table presents the base salaries for each of our named executive officers for the years 2021 and 2022, as approved by the Board of Directors and the Compensation Committee, as applicable, in January of each year. The 2021 base salaries became effective on February 26, 2021. The 2022 base salaries became effective on February 28, 2022 and were retroactive to January 1, 2022.

 

     January 2022 Approved Adjustment  
Named Executive Officer    2021 Annualized
Base Salary
($)
     Increase (as
% of 2021
Base Salary)
     Amount of
Increase
($)
     Nature of Increase      2022 Annualized
Base Salary
($)
 

John P. Butler

     721,809        6.0        43,309        Merit increase        765,118  

David A. Spellman

     476,100        6.0        28,566        Merit increase        504,666  

Steven K. Burke, M.D.

     496,949        6.0        29,817        Merit increase        526,766  

Michel Dahan

     476,875        6.0        28,613        Merit increase        505,488  

Nicole R. Hadas

     450,857        6.0        27,051        Merit increase        477,908  

Annual Cash Bonuses

All of our named executive officers participate in the Akebia Therapeutics, Inc. Cash Incentive Plan, which is our annual cash bonus program that promotes and rewards our executives for the achievement of key strategic and business goals. The 2022 bonus plan period covered the 12-month period beginning on January 1, 2022 and ending on December 31, 2022. For the 2022 bonus plan period, the target annual bonus as a percentage of base salary, as determined based on the 2022 base salary amounts, was 75% for Mr. Butler and 45% for each of the other named executive officers. The Board of Directors and the Compensation Committee, as applicable, determined that annual cash bonus opportunities were competitive with the market, and based on market median data, except for our Chief Operating Officer who was below market, based on the Pearl Meyer market assessment.

The amount of each named executive officer’s annual bonus is based entirely on the Company’s performance against pre-established corporate goals. At the beginning of the 2022 bonus plan period, when the Board of Directors established the corporate goals for calendar year 2022, it believed those goals reflected a challenging yet attainable level of clinical objectives and business development that was also in line with the Company’s longer-term strategic goals. However, due to the FDA’s complete response letter, or CRL, in March 2022, the Board of Directors determined that it would not be feasible for the Company to achieve certain of the original 2022 performance goals under our annual cash bonus program related to vadadustat regulatory approval and launch and certain other development programs. In an effort to motivate our executives and other employees to perform against the refocused priorities of the Company to address the CRL and other key initiatives, the Board of Directors approved additional financial related performance goals under our annual cash bonus program, each having a designated weighting, which related to key development, strategic and financial goals of the Company. Our Chief Executive Officer and certain members of senior management report to the Compensation Committee and the Board of Directors on the Company’s overall performance on a regular basis throughout the year. At the end of the year, our Chief Executive Officer and certain members of senior management present the Compensation Committee with a proposed score based on the Company’s actual performance as calculated against the corporate goals established by the Board of Directors at the beginning of the year. The Company’s overall performance goals allow for some amount of subjective and qualitative assessment, so there are typically a series of meetings and discussions among senior management, the Compensation Committee and the Board of Directors as to the exact and appropriate scoring of the Company’s performance against the goals established by the Board at the beginning of the year.

 

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The following table sets forth the Company’s updated 2022 corporate goals and the level of achievement against those goals as determined by the Compensation Committee and the Board of Directors.

 

2022 Goal    Allocation
(%)
     Actual Level of
Achievement (%)
     Accrual (Based on
Allocation x
Achievement)
(% rounded)
 

Auryxia & Vadadustat

•  Achieve certain Auryxia revenue and margin

•  Ensure continuity of Auryxia supply and reduce capital needs

•  Simplify vadadustat supply chain and identify supply chain cash savings

•  Achieve certain vadadustat regulatory milestones

     50        99        49.5  

Financial

•  Enter into a structured termination or settlement agreement with Otsuka for the U.S.

•  Align debt with current business conditions

•  Base business investment plan to allow cash flow break even in the third quarter of 2023

•  Identify certain additional cash savings (outside supply chain)

     30        100        30  

Pipeline

•  Assess and execute strategic growth opportunities

•  Readout ARDS study and assess utility of second ARDS trial in non-COVID pneumonia

•  Progress certain pipeline asset

     15        66        10  

People

•  Create and execute organizational capability plan to meet current and future resource needs

•  Engage, align and energize the organization

     5        100        5  

Based on the level of achievement of the pre-established corporate goals, each named executive officer’s 2022 annual bonus could have ranged between 0% and 125% of his or her target annual bonus. In January 2023, our Compensation Committee met and evaluated the performance of the Company against these specified performance goals. Based on its evaluation, our Compensation Committee recommended, and the Board of Directors approved, that the Company achieved 94.5% of its corporate performance goals for 2022.

Our Compensation Committee based its determinations above on, among other factors, the significant progress related to Auryxia revenue and cash management, supporting vadadustat globally and our pipeline, including that we:

 

   

Exceeded threshold Auryxia revenue target by recording approximately $177 million in 2022, as a result of an increase in net price per pill and successful commercial contracting;

 

   

Achieved positive margin for Auryxia by December 31, 2022;

 

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Restructured and simplified the Auryxia supply chain, saving significant anticipated cash over a five-year period and reducing the excess purchase commitment liability;

 

   

Implemented multiple initiatives to reduce costs and create a plan for positive cash flows from operations supported by Auryxia revenues;

 

   

Regained development and commercial rights to vadadustat from Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. for the U.S., Europe, China, Russia, Canada, Australia, the Middle East and certain other territories;

 

   

Progressed vadadustat regulatory processes for the United States, European Union and ACCESS Consortium;

 

   

Released data from an investigator-sponsored clinical study with the University of Texas Health Sciences Center, Houston (UT Health), evaluating vadadustat for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 related acute respiratory distress syndrome;

 

   

Progressed early HIF research;

 

   

Completed Auryxia ex-U.S. partnering transaction; and

 

   

Completed capability assessment and implemented new commercial model to support current and future organizational needs.

The following table presents the annual cash bonuses for each of our named executive officers for 2022, as approved by the Board of Directors and the Compensation Committee, as applicable, which were based entirely on the achievement of our corporate performance goals established by the Board of Directors, as described above.

 

Named Executive Officer    2022
Annualized
Base
Salary
($)
            Target
Bonus
(as %
of Base
Salary)
            Achievement
(%)
            2022
Annual Cash
Bonus
($)
 

John P. Butler

     765,118        x        75        x        94.5        =        542,277  

David A. Spellman

     504,666        x        45        x        94.5        =        214,609  

Steven K. Burke, M.D.

     526,766        x        45        x        94.5        =        224,007  

Michel Dahan

     505,488        x        45        x        94.5        =        214,959  

Nicole R. Hadas

     477,908        x        45        x        94.5        =        203,230  

Retention and Performance Awards

In connection with our April 2022 and May 2022 reductions in workforce, the Board of Directors approved a retention program designed to retain the employees required to support the Company following the reductions in workforce. The retention program was designed to incentivize individual performance and promote stability and retention. The retention program consisted of cash payments and/or grants of restricted stock units and options to certain of our employees, including certain of our named executive officers. As part of the retention program, in May 2022, we entered into letter agreements with the following named executive officers: Mr. Butler, Dr. Burke, Mr. Dahan and Ms. Hadas which provide Mr. Butler, Dr. Burke, Mr. Dahan and Ms. Hadas the opportunity to earn cash bonuses under our Cash Incentive Plan upon the achievement of certain milestones, subject to the named executive officer’s continuous employment through the achievement of the applicable milestone on which the cash bonus is payable and subject to acceleration upon a change in control, in the amounts of $775,000, $150,000, $150,000 and $150,000, respectively. In March 2023, the Company certified Mr. Butler and Dr. Burke’s achievement of a vadadustat European regulatory milestone under the retention award program for $150,000 each.

Additionally, pursuant to their letter agreements, Dr. Burke, Mr. Dahan and Ms. Hadas each received, on May 12, 2022, an RSU grant for 200,000 shares of Common Stock and an option to purchase 200,000 shares of

 

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Common Stock. Dr. Burke’s options and RSUs vest in full on the first anniversary of the grant date, subject to his continuous employment through the vesting date, and Mr. Dahan’s and Ms. Hadas’s options and RSUs will vest in full on or before December 31, 2023 upon the closing of a significant transaction, or the “Corporate Performance Milestone.” The retention awards will accelerate in connection with a change in control of the Company.

As an additional part of the retention program, on June 6, 2022, we entered into a letter agreement with Mr. Spellman, pursuant to which Mr. Spellman (i) received a $100,000 cash bonus, or the Spellman Special Bonus, and (ii) had the opportunity to earn a cash bonus under the Cash Incentive Plan upon the achievement of certain milestones in the aggregate amount of $250,000, or the Spellman Retention Bonus. If Mr. Spellman voluntarily terminates employment with the Company (other than for good reason), or if the Company terminates Mr. Spellman’s employment for cause, in either case, within twelve (12) months after receiving the Spellman Special Bonus, then Mr. Spellman will be obligated to repay such amount to the Company within thirty (30) days after the effective date of such termination. In August 2022, the Company certified Mr. Spellman’s achievement of a milestone under the retention award program relating to an amendment to the Company’s debt facility for $125,000 of the aggregate amount of the Spellman Retention Bonus. In January 2023, the Company certified Mr. Spellman’s achievement of a milestone under the retention award program relating to the identification of certain cash savings for the remaining $125,000 of the Spellman Retention Bonus. Additionally, Mr. Spellman received, on June 8, 2022, an RSU grant for 200,000 shares of Common Stock and an option to purchase 200,000 shares of Common Stock, each of which will vest in full on the first anniversary of the grant date, subject to his continuous employment through the vesting date and further provided that if the Company terminates Mr. Spellman’s employment without cause prior to such date, the equity shall fully vest on the date of such termination. The retention awards will accelerate in connection with a change in control of the Company.

Long-Term Incentive Compensation

All of our named executive officers participate in our 2014 Plan. Pursuant to the 2014 Plan, the Board of Directors or the Compensation Committee, as applicable, has the authority to approve the grant of stock options, RSUs, PSUs and other stock- and incentive-based awards to employees, directors, consultants and advisors to the Company and its affiliates and, subject to limited exceptions set forth in the 2014 Plan, to set the terms of such awards, including provisions related to vesting and exercisability.

When considering the grant of long-term incentive awards, the Board of Directors and the Compensation Committee, as applicable, takes factors into account such as peer group and broader market data, market competitiveness, expected future contribution, experience, impact and individual performance relative to similar positions within the Company, but does not assign any specific weight to any factor. In addition, when reviewing long-term incentive awards, the Board of Directors and the Compensation Committee, as applicable, reviews and considers the current equity holdings and vested and unvested positions of the named executive officers.

As more fully described below, during fiscal year 2022, each of our named executive officers received annual grants of stock options and RSUs, as well as the retention stock options and RSUs described above for Mr. Spellman and Dr. Burke and the performance-based stock options and RSUs described above for Mr. Dahan and Ms. Hadas. In addition, as more fully described below, in accordance with the terms of the PSU awards granted in 2020 to our named executive officers, following the achievement of a specified commercial milestone, the Compensation Committee certified the achievement of such milestone, the number of PSUs achieved and the vesting of such PSUs.

Time-Based Stock Options and RSUs

During fiscal year 2022, each of our named executive officers received an annual grant of time-based stock options and RSUs. The stock option grants are subject to time-based vesting conditions and generally vest, subject to continued service with the Company, as follows: 25% of the shares subject to the award vest on the

 

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first anniversary of the grant date and, thereafter, the shares continue to vest in quarterly installments over the subsequent three years, subject to the named executive officer’s continued service with the Company through the applicable vesting date. The RSUs will vest on each of the first, second and third anniversaries of the grant date, subject to the named executive officers’ continued service with the Company through each such date. We believe these equity awards serve to align the interests of our named executive officers with our stockholders. In addition, we believe that equity grants with a time-based vesting feature promote retention because this feature incentivizes our named executive officers to remain in our employment during the vesting period.

Based on the recommendation of the compensation consultant, the Compensation Committee and the Board of Directors set the grant levels to be generally competitive with the market long-term incentive awards when expressed as a percentage of common shares outstanding. The Compensation Committee and Board, as applicable, allocated approximately 50% to stock options and 50% to RSUs. The Committee determined this allocation based on the volatility of our stock price and recognition that our market capitalization at the time of the grant was below that of the 2022 Peer Group. As a result, the grant date fair value of our 2022 annual long-term incentive grants was significantly lower than the grant date fair value of our 2021 annual long-term incentive grants.

In addition, from time to time, we grant new hire awards, including pursuant to our inducement award program in accordance with Nasdaq Listing Rule 5635(c)(4), or special individual awards as part of our executive compensation program. We did not grant any new hire awards to a named executive officer in 2022.

The following table presents the annual time-based stock option and RSU awards granted to each of our named executive officers in 2022, as well as the time-based retention stock options and RSUs described above for Mr. Spellman and Dr. Burke, each as approved by the Board of Directors and the Compensation Committee, as applicable.

 

Named Executive Officer    2022 Annual
Stock Option
Grant (#
of Shares of
Common Stock
Subject to Stock
Options)
     2022 Annual RSU
Grant
(# of Shares of
Common Stock
Subject to RSUs)
     2022 Special RSU
Grant
(# of Shares of
Common Stock
Subject to Stock
RSUs)
     2022 Special
Stock Option
Grant (#
of Shares of
Common Stock
Subject to Stock
Options)
 

John Butler

     739,700        293,125        —          —    

David A. Spellman

     225,000        60,000        200,000        200,000  

Steven K. Burke, M.D.

     225,000        60,000        200,000        200,000  

Michel Dahan

     200,000        50,000        (1      (1

Nicole R. Hadas

     200,000        50,000        (1      (1

 

(1)

As described below, Mr. Dahan and Ms. Hadas were each awarded a performance-based option to purchase 200,000 shares and 200,000 RSUs tied to the achievement of the Corporate Performance Milestone.

Performance-Based Options and Restricted Stock Unit Awards

As described above, in 2022, the Compensation Committee approved grants of performance-based options and RSUs, or PSUs, to Mr. Dahan and Ms. Hadas vest in full upon the achievement of the Corporate Performance Milestone.

In addition, in 2020, the Board of Directors, upon recommendation by the Compensation Committee, approved a grant of PSUs to our Chief Executive Officer, and the Compensation Committee approved grants of PSUs to our other named executive officers, or the 2020 PSUs. Each 2020 PSU represents the right to receive one share of Common Stock. The 2020 PSUs vest 40% in connection with the achievement of specified milestones, including Auryxia gross revenue meeting the target level of achievement ($150 million) during 2020, or the Auryxia Milestone, and 60% in connection with regulatory approval of vadadustat in the United States prior to

 

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December 31, 2022, or the Vadadustat Milestone, to incentivize our named executive officers to deliver on key milestones necessary to advancing our pipeline and driving future performance of the Company. The 2020 PSUs also all included a time-based vesting component which schedule varied based on the nature and timing of the milestone achieved.

On February 25, 2021, the Company reported its financial results for the year ended December 31, 2020. Subsequently, in accordance with the terms of the 2020 PSUs, in March 2021, the Compensation Committee certified that the threshold level of achievement ($128 million) had been met with respect to the Auryxia Milestone (2020 gross revenues totaled approximately $129 million), but not the target level of achievement ($150 million). Therefore, the total percentage achievement of such milestone equaled 52%. Based on such percentage achievement, the Compensation Committee determined the total number of 2020 PSUs eligible to vest for each named executive officer with respect to the achievement of the Auryxia Milestone. Of the total number of the 2020 PSUs that were determined as eligible to vest, one third of such PSUs vested on each of March 31, 2021 and February 28, 2022 and February 28, 2023.

The following table presents the number of 2020 PSUs that vested for each of our named executive officers following the Compensation Committee’s certification of the Auryxia Milestone in March 2021.

 

Named Executive Officer   

Total Target

Number of
PSUs granted
in 2020

     Target Number
of PSUs Eligible
to Vest Based
on Auryxia
Milestone
     Certified
Percentage of
Achievement
of the Auryxia
Milestone (%)
    

Total Shares
Vested in
Connection

with Auryxia
Milestone (1)

 

John P. Butler

     190,000      76,000        52        39,520  

David A. Spellman

     36,500        14,600        52        7,592  

Steven K. Burke, M.D.

     50,000        20,000        52        10,400  

Michel Dahan

     56,000        22,400        52        11,648  

Nicole R. Hadas

     49,000        19,600        52        10,192  

 

(1)

Of the total number of the PSUs that were determined as eligible to vest, one third of such PSUs vested on each of March 31, 2021, February 28, 2022 and February 28, 2023.

The Vadadustat Milestone was not achieved by the deadline of December 31, 2022 and therefore the shares with respect to the achievement of the Vadadustat Milestone did not vest.

Other Benefits

We offer a 401(k) plan to eligible employees, and our Amended and Restated 2014 Employee Stock Purchase Plan and basic health benefits are generally available to all of our employees, including our named executive officers. In accordance with the 401(k) plan, all eligible employees may contribute a percentage of compensation up to a maximum statutory limit per year. Company contributions to the 401(k) plan are discretionary, and contributions in the amount of approximately $2.6 million and $1.8 million were made by the Company to the 401(k) plan in the fiscal years ended December 31, 2022 and December 31, 2021, respectively.

Tax and Accounting Considerations

While our Compensation Committee generally considers the tax and accounting implications of its executive compensation decisions, neither element was a material consideration in the compensation awarded to our named executive officers in 2022.

Compensation Practices and Risk

As part of its responsibilities, the Compensation Committee reviews the impact of our executive compensation program and the associated incentives to determine whether they present a significant risk to us. The

 

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Compensation Committee has concluded, based on its review and analysis of our compensation policies and procedures, that such policies and procedures are not reasonably likely to have a material adverse effect on us. In making this determination, our Compensation Committee considered the following:

 

   

our use of different types of compensation vehicles providing a balance of long-term and short-term incentives with fixed and variable components;

 

   

our grant of equity-based awards with time-based vesting and performance-based vesting, both of which encourage our executive officers to look to long-term appreciation in equity values;

 

   

our annual bonus determinations for each executive officer depending entirely on the achievement of Company goals, which we believe promote long-term value;

 

   

our Compensation Committee’s ability to exercise discretion in determining cash bonus payouts and long-term incentive awards for executive officers other than the Chief Executive Officer;

 

   

our system of internal control over financial reporting and Code of Conduct, among other things, reducing the likelihood of manipulation of our financial performance to enhance payments under any of our incentive plans; and

 

   

our prohibition on hedging or pledging of Company stock.

Overview of Our Other Policies and Practices

Highlighted policies and practices that we use to ensure effective governance of compensation plans and decisions include:

 

   

our Compensation Committee has the authority to hire independent counsel and other advisors;

 

   

our Compensation Committee conducts a regular review and assessment of risk as it relates to our compensation policies and practices;

 

   

as part of our Insider Trading Compliance Policy, our executive officers are prohibited from pledging our Common Stock and engaging in any hedging transactions of our Common Stock, including using prepaid variable forward contracts, equity swaps, collars, and exchange funds;

 

   

we have no perquisites other than broad-based health, dental, transportation, relocation, 401(k) plan, a home office stipend and insurance-related benefits that we make available to all of our employees;

 

   

our 2014 Plan prohibits option repricing (absent stockholder approval) and option backdating;

 

   

our Executive Severance Agreements do not provide for tax gross-ups;

 

   

all of our non-employee directors are independent, including all members of our Compensation Committee; and

 

   

if we are required to restate our financial results due to our material noncompliance with any financial reporting requirements under the applicable securities laws as a result of misconduct, our Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer may be legally required to reimburse us for any bonus or other incentive-based or equity-based compensation they receive in accordance with the provisions of Section 304 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002.

 

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2022 Summary Compensation Table

The following table sets forth information regarding compensation awarded to, earned by or paid to each of our named executive officers during the fiscal years ended December 31, 2022, December 31, 2021 and December 31, 2020 (unless otherwise specified).

 

Name and Principal Position    Year     Salary
($)
   

Bonus

($)

    Stock
Awards
($)(2)
     Option
Awards
($)(2)
     Nonequity
Incentive Plan
Compensation
($)(3)
     All Other
Compensation
($)(4)
     Total ($)  

John P. Butler, President and Chief Executive Officer

    

2022

2021

2020

 

 

 

   

765,118

718,430

696,254

 

 

 

   

—  

75,000

—  

 

(1) 

 

   

633,150

821,404

2,456,280

 

 

 

    

1,116,177

951,272

2,277,351

 

 

 

    

506,126

552,256

488,180

 

 

 

    

15,816

14,954

12,372

 

 

 

    

3,036,388

3,133,316

5,930,437

 

 

 

David A. Spellman, Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer

    

2022

2021

2020

 

 

(6) 

   

504,666

473,871

237,077

 

 

 

   

225,000

75,000

—  

(5) 

(1) 

 

   

218,620

242,200

19,056

 

 

 

    

405,295

688,739

2,363,658

 

 

 

    

214,609

234,170

184,000

 

 

 

    

17,650

7,496

707

 

 

 

    

1,585,841

1,721,477

2,804,498

 

 

 

Steven K. Burke, M.D., Senior Vice President, Chief Medical Officer

    

2022

2021

2020

 

 

 

   

526,766

494,623

482,355

 

 

 

   

—  

75,000

—  

 

(1) 

 

   

212,160

242,200

642,188

 

 

 

    

399,823

282,836

595,294

 

 

 

    

224,007

244,424

192,058

 

 

 

    

15,801

7,489

7,456

 

 

 

    

1,378,558

1,346,572

1,919,351

 

 

 

Michel Dahan, Senior Vice President, Chief Operating Officer

    

2022

2021

2020

 

 

 

   

505,488

474,643

461,055

 

 

 

   

—  

75,000

—  

 

(1) 

 

   

190,560

214,520

679,868

 

 

 

    

362,099

259,266

677,111

 

 

 

    

214,959

234,551

184,300

 

 

 

    

14,279

9,990

9,790

 

 

 

    

1,287,386

1,267,970

2,012,124

 

 

 

Nicole R. Hadas, Senior Vice President, Chief Legal Officer

    

2022

2021

2020

 

 

 

   

468,351

448,747

427,952

(7) 

 

 

   

—  

75,000

—  

 

(1) 

 

   

190,560

214,520

640,343

 

 

 

    

362,099

259,266

592,472

 

 

 

    

203,230

221,754

174,244

 

 

 

    

15,798

11,166

9,833

 

 

 

    

1,240,038

1,230,453

1,844,845

 

 

 

 

(1)

Represents a $75,000 special cash bonus approved by the Compensation Committee and the Board of Directors in September 2021 in recognition of contributions related to the Company’s vadadustat program.

(2)

The amounts reported in the “Stock Awards” and “Option Awards” columns above represent the grant date fair value of the stock options, RSUs and PSUs granted to our named executive officers during the years indicated as computed in accordance with ASC Topic 718, not including any estimates of forfeitures. The assumptions used in calculating the grant date fair value of the time-based stock options, performance options, RSUs and PSUs reported in the “Option Awards” and “Stock Awards” columns are set forth in Note 12 to our financial statements included in our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2022. The grant date fair value of any PSUs is based on the probability of achievement of the relevant milestones at the time of grant. Note that the amounts reported in these columns reflect the accounting cost for these time-based stock options, performance options, RSUs and PSUs, and do not correspond to the actual economic value that may be received by the named executive officers from the time-based stock options, performance options, RSUs and PSUs.

(3)

Amounts for 2020 represent cash bonuses earned for the 12-month bonus plan period from January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020 under our Cash Incentive Plan. Amounts for 2021 represent cash bonuses earned for the 12-month bonus plan period from January 1, 2021 to December 31, 2021 under our Cash Incentive Plan. Amounts for 2022 represent cash bonuses earned for the 12-month bonus plan period from January 1, 2022 to December 31, 2022 under our Cash Incentive Plan.

(4)

For 2022, includes Company contributions to its 401(k) plan for the benefit of our named executive officers and a stipend to each named executive officer for home office setup.

(5)

Represents (i) the $100,000 Spellman Special Bonus paid in July 2022 and (iii) $125,000 of the aggregate amount of the Spellman Retention Bonus paid in August 2022.

(6)

Mr. Spellman became our Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer of the Company in June 2020.

(7)

Reflects receipt of reduced salary for a period of time during a Company approved leave of absence.

 

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Grants of Plan-Based Awards

The following table sets forth information regarding non-equity and equity awards granted to each of our named executive officers during the year ended December 31, 2022. All non-equity incentive plan awards were made pursuant to our Cash Incentive Plan. In 2022, we granted time-based stock options and RSUs to our named executive officers as compensation and to provide an incentive to our named executive officers to remain employed with us during the vesting period. We also granted PSUs and performance options to Mr. Dahan and Ms. Hadas. All RSUs and PSUs granted in 2022 represent the right to receive shares of our Common Stock and all stock options and performance options granted in 2022 consist of options to purchase shares of our Common Stock with an exercise price equal to the fair market value of our Common Stock on the date of grant. All such equity awards were granted under our 2014 Plan, unless otherwise disclosed below. The vesting schedule of each RSU, PSU, stock option and performance option included in the following table is described in the footnotes to the Outstanding Equity Awards as of December 31, 2022 table below.

 

Name   Grant
Date
    Compensation
Committee or
Board of
Directors
Approval
Date
    Type of Award  

Estimated
Future
Payouts
Under
Non-Equity
Incentive
Plan
Awards
Target(1)

($)

    Estimated
Future
Payouts
Under
Equity
Incentive
Plan
Awards (2)
    All
Other
Stock
Awards:
Number
of
Shares
of Stock
or Units
(#)
   

All Other
Option
Awards:
Number of
Securities
Underlying
Options

(#)

    Exercise
or Base
Price of
Option
Awards
($/Sh)
    Grant
Date
Fair
Value of
Stock
and
Option
Awards
($) (3)
 
 

Target

(#)

    Maximum
(#)
 

John P. Butler

    2/28/2022       1/27/2022 (4)    Annual Grant

– Option

    —         —         —         —         739,700       2.16       1,116,177  
    2/28/2022       1/27/2022 (4)    Annual Grant

– RSU

    —         —         —         293,125       —         —         633,150  
    —         1/27/2022 (4)    Annual Cash
Bonus (1)
    573,839       —         —         —         —         —         —    

David A. Spellman

    2/28/2022       1/20/2022   Annual Grant

– Option

    —         —         —         —         225,000       2.16       339,516  
    2/28/2022       1/20/2022   Annual Grant

– RSU

    —         —         —         60,000       —         —         129,600  
    —         1/20/2022   Annual Cash
Bonus (1)
    227,100       —         —         —         —         —         —    
    6/8/2022       6/6/2022     Retention
Option (5)
    —         —         —         —         200,000       0.45     65,780
    6/8/2022       6/6/2022     Retention
RSU (5)
    —         —         —         200,000       —         —         89,020  

Steven K. Burke, M.D

    2/28/2022       1/20/2022     Annual Grant
– Option
    —         —         —         —         225,000       2.16       339,516  
    2/28/2022       1/20/2022   Annual Grant

– RSU

    —         —         —         60,000       —         —         129,600  
    —         1/20/2022   Annual Cash
Bonus (1)
    237,045       —         —         —         —         —         —    
    5/12/2022       4/28/2022     Retention
Option (5)
    —         —         —         —         200,000       0.41     60,307
    5/12/2022       4/28/2022     Retention
RSU (5)
    —         —         —         200,000       —         —         82,560  

Michel Dahan

    2/28/2022       1/20/2022     Annual Grant
– Option
    —         —         —         —         200,000       2.16       301,792  
    2/28/2022       1/20/2022     Annual Grant
– RSU
    —         —         —         50,000       —         —         108,000  
    —         1/26/2022     Annual Cash
Bonus (1)
    227,470       —         —         —         —         —         —    
    5/12/2022       4/28/2022     Performance
Option (6)
    —         200,000     200,000       —         —         —         —   (7) 
    5/12/2022       4/28/2022     Performance
RSU (6)
    —         200,000     200,000       —         —         —         —   (7) 

 

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Table of Contents
Name   Grant
Date
    Compensation
Committee or
Board of
Directors
Approval
Date
     Type of Award  

Estimated
Future
Payouts
Under
Non-Equity
Incentive
Plan
Awards
Target(1)

($)

    Estimated
Future
Payouts
Under
Equity
Incentive
Plan
Awards (2)
    All
Other
Stock
Awards:
Number
of
Shares
of Stock
or Units
(#)
   

All Other
Option
Awards:
Number of
Securities
Underlying
Options

(#)

    Exercise
or Base
Price of
Option
Awards
($/Sh)
    Grant
Date
Fair
Value
of
Stock
and
Option
Awards
($) (3)
 
 

Target

(#)

    Maximum
(#)
 

Nicole R. Hadas

    2/28/2022       1/20/2022      Annual
Grant
– Option
    —         —         —         —         200,000       2.16       301,792  
    2/28/2022       1/20/2022      Annual
Grant
– RSU
    —         —         —         50,000       —         —         108,000  
    —         1/20/2022      Annual
Cash
Bonus (1)
    215,059       —         —         —         —         —         —    
    5/12/2022       4/282022      Performance
Option (6)
    —         200,000     200,000       —         —         —         —   (7) 
    5/12/2022       4/28/2022      Performance
RSU (6)
    —         200,000     200,000       —         —         —         —   (7) 

 

(1)

The amounts shown in this column represent the 2022 target payout amount of annual cash bonuses awarded to our named executive officers under our Cash Incentive Plan then in effect. No separate maximum amounts were approved and the amounts did not have a threshold. Amounts are based on the target percentage applied to each named executive officer’s base salary as of December 31, 2022, assuming 100% corporate achievement. As described in more detail above, in 2022 each of our named executive officers, other than Mr. Butler, had an individual bonus target of 45% of his or her base salary, which was tied solely to the achievement of our corporate goals for 2022 (which was not determined as of December 31, 2022). Mr. Butler had an individual bonus target of 75% of his base salary, which was likewise tied solely to the achievement of our corporate goals for 2022 (which was not determined as of December 31, 2022).

(2)

The amounts shown in these columns represent retention and performance awards. No threshold amounts were established with respect to the retention awards or performance awards.

(3)

Reflects the fair value of time-based RSU, PSU and stock option awards on the date of grant calculated in accordance with ASC Topic 718. For a discussion of the assumptions used in the valuation of the time-based RSU and PSU awards and stock option awards granted to our named executive officers in 2022, see footnote (2) to the 2022 Summary Compensation Table above. See “Performance-Based Options and Restricted Stock Unit Awards” above for additional detail regarding the PSUs. For PSUs and performance options, these amounts reflect the grant date fair value of such awards based upon the probable outcome of the performance conditions at the time of grant as determined under applicable accounting standards.

(4)

Each equity award granted to Mr. Butler was approved by our full Board of Directors pursuant to the terms of our 2014 Plan, and the charter of our Compensation Committee, and in accordance with Nasdaq rules and regulations.

(5)

In connection with our April 2022 and May 2022 reductions in workforce, the Board of Directors approved a retention program designed to retain the employees required to support the Company following the reductions in workforce. The retention program consisted of cash payments and/or grants of restricted stock units and options to certain of our employees, including certain of our named executive officers. See “Retention and Performance Awards” above for additional detail regarding the retention awards.

(6)

Mr. Dahan and Ms. Hadas each received, on May 12, 2022, a PSU grant for 200,000 shares of Common Stock and an option to purchase 200,000 shares of Common Stock. Mr. Dahan’s and Ms. Hadas’s options and RSUs will vest in full upon achievement of the Corporate Performance Milestone. See “Retention and Performance Awards” above for additional detail regarding the performance awards.

(7)

We determined that, as of December 31, 2022 it was not probable, under applicable accounting standards, that the performance condition would be achieved and assigned a grant date fair value of $0.

 

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Outstanding Equity Awards as of December 31, 2022

The following table sets forth information concerning outstanding equity awards for each of our named executive officers as of December 31, 2022.

 

    Option Awards     Stock Awards  
Name   Number of
Securities
Underlying
Unexercised
Options
(#)
Exercisable
    Number of
Securities
Underlying
Unexercised
Options
(#)
Unexercisable
    Equity
Incentive
Plan
Awards:
Number of
Securities
Underlying
Unexercised
Unearned
Options (#)
    Option
Exercise
Price
($)
    Option
Expiration
Date
    Number of
Shares or
Units of Stock
That Have Not
Vested
(#)
    Market Value of
Shares of Units
of Stock
That Have
Not Vested
($)
    Equity
Incentive
Plan
Awards:
Number
of
Unearned
Shares,
Units or
Other
Rights
That
Have Not
Vested
(#)
    Equity
Incentive
Plan
Awards:
Market
or Payout
Value of
Unearned
Shares,
Units or
Other
Rights
That
Have Not
Vested
($)
 

John P. Butler

    —         739,700  (1)        2.16       2/28/2032       —         —         —         —    
    176,575     227,025  (1)      —         3.46       2/26/2031       —         —         —         —    
    277,475       126,125  (1)      —         8.87       2/28/2030       —         —         —         —    
    328,125       21,875     —         7.28       2/28/2029       —         —         —         —    
    126,300       —         —         14.30       2/28/2028       —         —         —         —    
    190,000       —         —         10.14       2/21/2027       —         —         —         —    
    190,550       —         —         7.70       2/22/2026       —         —         —         —    
    150,000       —         —         11.15       3/6/2025       —         —         —         —    
    46,667       —         —         22.80       5/14/2024       —         —         —         —    
    —         —         —         —         —         530,526  (2)      306,114  (3)      —         —    
    —         —         —         —         —         —         —         13,174  (4)      7,601  (4) 

David A. Spellman

    —         200,000       —         0.45       6/8/2032       —         —         —         —    
    —         225,000  (1)      —         2.16       2/28/2032       —         —         —         —    
    62,500       137,500  (5)      —         2.88       9/30/2031       —         —         —         —    
    52,500     67,500  (1)      —         3.46       2/26/2031       —         —         —         —    
    175,000  (7)      105,000  (6)      —         13.58       6/30/2030       —         —         —         —    
    —         —         —         —         —         306,667  (7)      176,947  (3)      —         —    
    —         —         —         —         —         —         —         2,531  (8)      1,460  (4) 

Steven K. Burke, M.D.

    —         200,000       —         0.41       5/12/2032       —         —         —         —    
    —         225,000  (1)      —         2.16       2/28/2032       —         —         —         —    
    52,500       67,500  (1)      —         3.46       2/26/2031       —         —         —         —    
    72,526       32,974  (1)      —         8.87       2/28/2030       —         —         —         —    
    203,125  (7)      46,875  (6)      —         4.13       8/30/2029       —         —         —         —    
    —         —         —         —         —         327,334  (9)      188,872  (3)      —         —    
    —         —         —         —         —         —         —         3,467  (4)      2,000  (4) 

Michel Dahan

    —         —         200,000  (11)      0.41       5/12/2032       —         —         —         —    
    —         200,000       —         2.16       2/28/2032       —         —         —         —    
    48,125       61,875  (1)      —         3.46       2/26/2031       —         —         —         —    
    82,500       37,500  (1)      —         8.87       2/28/2030       —         —         —         —    
    93,750       6,250     —         7.28       2/28/2029       —         —         —         —    
    27,500       —         —         14.30       2/28/2028       —         —         —         —    
    62,500       —         —         10.14       2/21/2027       —         —         —         —    
    30,950       —         —         7.70       2/22/2026       —         —         —         —    
    30,000       —         —         11.15       3/6/2025       —         —         —         —    
    15,000       —         —         9.66       9/30/2025       —         —         —         —    
    6,667       —         —         22.80       5/14/2024       —         —         —         —    
    —         —         —         —         —         113,001  (2)      65,202  (3)      —         —    
    —         —         —         —         —         —         —         203,883  (10)      117,640  (3) 

 

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    Option Awards     Stock Awards  
Name   Number of
Securities
Underlying
Unexercised
Options
(#)
Exercisable
    Number of
Securities
Underlying
Unexercised
Options
(#)
Unexercisable
    Equity
Incentive
Plan
Awards:
Number of
Securities
Underlying
Unexercised
Unearned
Options (#)
    Option
Exercise
Price
($)
    Option
Expiration
Date
    Number of
Shares or
Units of Stock
That Have Not
Vested
(#)
    Market Value of
Shares of Units
of Stock
That Have
Not Vested
($)
    Equity
Incentive
Plan
Awards:
Number
of
Unearned
Shares,
Units or
Other
Rights
That
Have Not
Vested
(#)
    Equity
Incentive
Plan
Awards:
Market
or Payout
Value of
Unearned
Shares,
Units or
Other
Rights
That
Have Not
Vested
($)
 

Nicole R. Hadas

    —         —         200,000  (11)      0.41       5/12/2032       —         —         —         —    
    —         200,000  (1)      —         2.16       2/28/2032       —         —         —         —    
    48,125       61,875  (1)      —         3.46       2/26/2031       —         —         —         —    
    72,184       32,816  (1)      —         8.87       2/28/2030       —         —         —         —    
    93,750       6,250     —         7.28       2/28/2029       —         —         —         —    
    25,000       —         —         14.30       2/28/2028       —         —         —         —    
    45,000       —         —         10.14       2/21/2027       —         —         —         —    
    34,300       —         —         7.70       2/22/2026       —         —         —         —    
    30,000       —         —         11.15       3/6/2025       —         —         —         —    
    16,667       —         —         22.80       5/14/2024       —         —         —         —    
    —         —         —         —         —         112,001  (2)      64,625  (3)      —         —    
    —         —         —         —         —         —         —         203,398  (10)      117,361  (3) 

 

(1)

Represents an option to purchase shares of our Common Stock granted on February 28, 2022, February 26, 2021 and/or February 28, 2020, as applicable, depending on whether such named executive officer was with the Company on such date. The options granted on each of these dates vest as follows: 25% of the options vest on the first anniversary of the grant date with the remaining 75% vesting in equal quarterly installments over the following three years, subject to the executive’s continued performance of services to us through the applicable vesting dates. Vesting of all unvested shares subject to the option will accelerate in connection with a change in control pursuant to the terms of the applicable stock option agreement and/or Executive Severance Agreement, as discussed below.

(2)

Represents RSUs granted on February 28, 2022, February 26, 2021 and February 28, 2020. One third of the RSUs will vest on each of the first, second and third anniversaries of the grant date, subject to the executive’s continued performance of services to us through the vesting date. Vesting of the RSUs will accelerate in connection with a change in control pursuant to the terms of the applicable Restricted Stock Unit Agreement and/or Executive Severance Agreement, as discussed below.

(3)

Calculated based on the closing price per share of the Company’s Common Stock on December 30, 2022, the last trading date of the fiscal year, of $0.577.

(4)

Represents PSUs granted on February 28, 2020. The February 2020 PSUs vested based on the Auryxia Milestone and also featured a time-based component. Based on achievement of the Auryxia Milestone, a certain number of PSUs vested on March 31, 2021, February 28, 2022 and February 28, 2023.

(5)

Represents an option to purchase shares of our Common Stock granted to Mr. Spellman on September 30, 2021. The options will vest as follows: 25% of the option will vest on the first anniversary of the grant date with the remaining 75% vesting in equal quarterly installments thereafter, subject to his continued service with us on each vesting date. Vesting of all unvested shares subject to the option will accelerate in connection with a change in control pursuant to the terms of the applicable stock option agreement and/or Executive Severance Agreement, as discussed below.

(6)

Represents options to purchase shares of our Common Stock granted to Mr. Spellman on June 30, 2020 and to Dr. Burke on August 30, 2019, as applicable, as an inducement material to each individual’s entering into employment with the Company in accordance with Nasdaq Listing Rule 5635(c)(4). The options vest as follows: 25% of the options will vest on the first anniversary of the grant date with the remaining 75% vesting in equal quarterly installments over the next three years, subject to the named executive officer’s continued performance of services to us through the applicable vesting dates. Vesting of all unvested shares

 

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  subject to the option will accelerate in connection with a change in control pursuant to the terms of the applicable stock option agreement and/or Executive Severance Agreement, as discussed below.
(7)

Represents RSUs granted on February 28, 2022 and February 26, 2021. One third of these RSUs will vest on each of the first, second and third anniversaries of the grant date, subject to the executive’s continued performance of services to us through the vesting date. Also represents RSUs granted on June 8, 2022 pursuant to a retention agreement entered into on June 22, 2022, which RSUs will vest in full on May 12, 2023. Vesting of the RSUs will accelerate in connection with a change in control pursuant to the terms of the applicable Restricted Stock Unit Agreement and/or Executive Severance Agreement, as discussed below.

(8)

Represents PSUs granted to Mr. Spellman on September 30, 2020. The PSUs vested based on the Auryxia Milestone and also featured a time-based component. Based on achievement of the Auryxia Milestone, a certain number of PSUs vested on March 31, 2021, February 28, 2022 and February 28, 2023.

(9)

Represents RSUs granted on February 28, 2022, February 26, 2021 and February 28, 2020. One third of these RSUs will vest on each of the first, second and third anniversaries of the grant date, subject to the executive’s continued performance of services to us through the vesting date. Also, represents RSUs granted on May 12, 2022 pursuant to a retention agreement entered into on May 5, 2022, which RSUs will vest in full on May 12, 2023. Vesting of the RSUs will accelerate in connection with a change in control pursuant to the terms of the applicable Restricted Stock Unit Agreement and/or Executive Severance Agreement, as discussed below.

(10)

Represents PSUs granted on February 28, 2020. The February 2020 PSUs vested based on the Auryxia Milestone and also featured a time-based component. Based on achievement of the Auryxia Milestone, a certain number of PSUs vested on March 31, 2021, February 28, 2022 and February 28, 2023. Also represents PSUs granted on May 12, 2022, which PSUs vest based on achievement of the Corporate Performance Milestone.

(11)

Represents performance-based options granted on May 12, 2022, which options vest based on achievement of the Corporate Performance Milestone.

Option Exercises and Stock Vested Table

The following table sets forth certain information regarding the exercise of options to purchase shares of our Common Stock and the vesting of RSUs and PSUs with respect to shares of our Common Stock that were held by our named executive officers during the year ended December 31, 2022.

 

     Option Awards      Stock Awards  
Name    Number of Shares
Acquired on Exercise
(#)
     Value Realized
on Exercise
($)
     Number of Shares
Acquired on Vesting
(#)
    

Value Realized
on Vesting

($)(1)

 

John P. Butler

     —          —          251,273        545,124  

David A. Spellman

     —          —          25,864        56,566  

Steven K. Burke, M.D.

     —          —          50,801        104,429  

Michel Dahan

     —          —          67,883        147,247  

Nicole R. Hadas

     —          —          66,397        144,038  

 

(1)

The value realized when the stock awards vested represents the number of shares underlying the units vested multiplied by market value of a share of our common stock on the vesting date.

Employment Agreement and Offer Letters

We have entered into an executive employment agreement with Mr. Butler and offer letters with our other named executive officers, pursuant to which such named executive officer is employed “at will,” meaning each such named executive officer or we may terminate the employment arrangement at any time. Such agreement and letter establish Mr. Butler’s and our other named executive officers’ title, initial compensation arrangements, and eligibility for benefits made available to employees generally.

 

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Executive Severance Agreements

We entered into Executive Severance Agreements with each of our named executive officers. Each of our named executive officers is eligible to receive certain payments and benefits under his or her Executive Severance Agreement in the event that the executive’s employment with us is terminated without “cause,” the executive terminates his or her employment with us for “good reason,” or the executive is terminated in connection with, or within twelve months after, a “change in control” (each as defined in the respective Executive Severance Agreement). The Executive Severance Agreements also provide for accelerated vesting of outstanding and unvested equity awards upon a “change in control” (as defined in the Executive Severance Agreements).

Termination of Employment without Cause or for Good Reason. Under the Executive Severance Agreements, if the named executive officer’s employment is terminated by us without “cause” or the executive terminates his or her employment for “good reason” (each as defined in the Executive Severance Agreements), other than following a change in control as described below, the executive will be entitled to receive, in addition to any amounts earned or accrued but unpaid as of the date of termination, twelve months of base salary continuation and, provided the executive timely elects Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, or COBRA, coverage, up to twelve months of reimbursement of a portion of the executive’s and the executive’s dependents’ health and dental COBRA premiums to the same extent as if the executive remained employed. In addition, the executive’s unvested equity and equity-based awards will remain outstanding and continue to vest in accordance with their terms during the executive’s severance period, as if he or she had remained employed during that time.

Termination of Employment without Cause or for Good Reason Following a Change in Control. If, within twelve months following a “change in control” (as defined in the Executive Severance Agreements), the named executive officer’s employment is terminated by us without “cause” or the executive terminates his or her employment for “good reason” (each as defined in the Executive Severance Agreements), the executive will be entitled to receive, in addition to any amounts earned or accrued but unpaid as of the date of termination, twelve months of base salary continuation, provided the executive timely elects COBRA coverage, up to twelve months of reimbursement of a portion of the executive’s and the executive’s dependents’ health and dental COBRA premiums to the same extent as if the executive remained employed, and an amount equal to 50% of the executive’s annual target bonus for the year of termination, prorated based on the number of months the executive was employed prior to his or her termination.

Accelerated Vesting of Equity Upon a Change in Control. Under the Executive Severance Agreements, 100% of each of the named executive officer’s outstanding and unvested equity and equity-based awards will become immediately vested upon a change in control, irrespective of whether the executive’s employment terminates in connection with the change in control.

Conditions to the Receipt of Severance Benefits. The severance payments and benefits described above are conditioned upon each executive’s timely execution and non-revocation of a general release of claims in our favor, as well as continued compliance with the restrictive covenants agreement prohibiting certain competitive behaviors and disparagement of the Company during employment and for one year following termination. In addition, we may terminate severance payments to any of the named executive officers if, within one year following a termination without cause, we determine that the Company had the right to terminate his or her employment for cause.

Other Termination of Employment. If our named executive officer’s employment is terminated for any reason other than by us without cause or by the executive for good reason (including by reason of death or disability), the executive will only be entitled to receive any amounts earned or accrued but unpaid as of the date of termination in accordance with our normal policies and practices, including any salary, bonus or incentive compensation with respect to the calendar year prior to the year of termination, business expenses incurred in the performance of the executive’s duties, and vacation pay.

280G Cutback. All payments to our named executive officers, as applicable, under the Executive Severance Agreements, including without limitation the payment of severance benefits or the accelerated vesting of equity,

 

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will be reduced or adjusted to avoid triggering the excise tax imposed by Section 4999 of the Code, if such adjustment would result in the provision of a greater total benefit, on a net after-tax basis (after taking into account taking any applicable federal, state and local income taxes and the excise tax imposed by Section 4999), to the executive.

Termination of Executive Severance Agreements. Each of our named executive officer’s Executive Severance Agreement will terminate immediately upon the mutual agreement of the parties to such Executive Severance Agreement, the executive’s termination for cause or death, or the executive’s disability (defined as the executive’s inability by reason of physical or mental impairment to perform his or her job duties for a period exceeding twelve consecutive weeks).

Retention and Separation Agreements

As previously disclosed, in connection with the reduction in workforce implemented in April 2022 and May 2022, the Board of Directors approved a retention program designed to retain the employees required to support the Company following the reduction in workforce. The retention program consisted of cash payments and/or grants of restricted stock units and options to certain of the Company’s employees, including certain of our named executive officers. As part of the retention program, on May 5, 2022, we entered into letter agreements with Mr. Butler and Dr. Burke, which provide Mr. Butler and Dr. Burke the opportunity to earn cash bonuses under our Amended and Restated Cash Incentive Plan and certain retention equity awards, each as more fully described above under “Retention and Performance Awards”. As an additional part of the retention program, on June 6, 2022, we entered into a letter agreement with Mr. Spellman, pursuant to which Mr. Spellman (i) received a $100,000 retention bonus, (ii) earned a cash bonus under our Amended and Restated Cash Incentive Plan upon the achievement of certain milestones in the aggregate amount of $250,000 and (iii) received certain retention equity awards, as more fully described above under “Retention and Performance Awards”. The letter agreement also amends the definition of good reason under the terms of Mr. Spellman’s Executive Severance Agreement, dated June 29, 2020.

Further, we also entered into a Retention and Separation Agreement with each of Ms. Hadas and Mr. Dahan, pursuant to which we agreed that the effective date of each of their termination with the Company would be May 5, 2023, or, in the event of certain specified events, the effective date of this termination may extend to October 20, 2023 and provides for the opportunity to earn cash bonuses under our Amended and Restated Cash Incentive Plan and granted PSUs and performance stock options. In connection with their departure, we have agreed to pay each of Ms. Hadas and Mr. Dahan the severance amounts to which they are each entitled pursuant to the terms of their Executive Severance Agreement, in each case, subject to the execution of a release.

Potential Payments Upon Termination or Change of Control

The following table presents our estimate of the amount of severance benefits to which each of our named executive officers would be entitled if a termination occurred on December 31, 2022 under the circumstances set forth in the column headings.

 

Name

 

Executive Payments

and Benefits

upon Termination (1)

  Termination by the
Company without
Cause or by Executive
for Good Reason (No
Change in Control)
$
    Termination by the
Company without
Cause or by Executive
for Good Reason
(Change in Control)
$(6)
 

John P. Butler

 

Cash Severance (2)

    765,118       765,118  
 

Non-Equity Incentive Plan Compensation (3)

    —         286,919  
 

Equity (4)

   
 

Options

    —         —    
 

RSUs

    —         313,715  
 

Other Benefits (5)

    24,788       24,788  
 

Total

    789,906       1,390,540  

 

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Table of Contents

Name

 

Executive Payments

and Benefits

upon Termination (1)

  Termination by the
Company without
Cause or by Executive
for Good Reason (No
Change in Control)
$
    Termination by the
Company without
Cause or by Executive
for Good Reason
(Change in Control)
$(6)
 

David A. Spellman

 

Cash Severance (2)

    504,666       504,666  
 

Non-Equity Incentive Plan Compensation (3)

    —         113,550  
 

Equity (4)

   
 

Options

    —         25,400  
 

RSUs

    —         178,407  
 

Other Benefits (5)

    21,584       21,584  
 

Total

    526,250       843,607  

Steven K. Burke, M.D.

 

Cash Severance (2)

    526,766       526,766  
 

Non-Equity Incentive Plan Compensation (3)

    —         118,522  
 

Equity (4)

   
 

Options

    —         33,400
 

RSUs

    —         190,872  
 

Other Benefits (5)

    24,788       24,788  
 

Total

    551,554       894,348  

Michel Dahan

 

Cash Severance (2)

    505,488       505,488  
 

Non-Equity Incentive Plan Compensation (3)

    —         113,735  
 

Equity (4)

   
 

Options

    —         33,400
 

RSUs

    —         182,842  
 

Other Benefits (5)

    24,788       24,788  
 

Total

    530,276       860,253  

Nicole R. Hadas

 

Cash Severance (2)

    477,908       477,908  
 

Non-Equity Incentive Plan Compensation (3)

    —         107,529  
 

Equity (4)

   
 

Options

    —         33,400  
 

RSUs

    —         181,985  
 

Other Benefits (5)

    24,788       24,788  
 

Total

    502,696       825,610  

 

(1)

Represents amounts payable under the terms of the Executive Severance Agreements. All amounts listed in the table are in addition to any amounts earned or accrued but unpaid as of the date of termination.

(2)

Represents twelve months of base salary continuation.

(3)

Non-equity incentive plan compensation payment amount assumes no bonus amounts for 2022 have been paid to the executive as of December 31, 2022, and that all 2021 bonus amounts have been paid as of such date, in each case, as would be consistent with the Company’s historical practice. Represents an amount equal to 50% of the executive’s annual target bonus for 2022, prorated based on the number of months the executive was employed prior to his termination.

(4)

In the event of a termination by the Company without cause or by the executive for good reason (no change in control), the executive’s time-based unvested equity and equity-based awards will remain outstanding and continue to vest in accordance with their terms during the executive’s severance period, as if he or she had remained employed during that time. Given that none of the equity and equity-based awards are accelerated, no value has been assigned in the table above where there is no change of control. With respect to options, reflects the in-the-money value of the unvested portion of such named executive officer’s options. The value is calculated by multiplying the amount (if any) by which $0.577, the closing price of our Common Stock on The Nasdaq Capital Market on December 30, 2022, exceeds the exercise price of the option by the number of shares subject to the accelerated portion of the option. With respect to RSUs, the value is calculated by multiplying the number of unvested RSUs with vesting provisions based solely on time (if

 

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  any) by $0.577, the closing price of our Common Stock on The Nasdaq Capital Market on December 30, 2022.
(5)

Represents twelve months of reimbursement of a portion of the executive’s and the executive’s dependents’ health, dental and vision COBRA premiums to the same extent as if the executive remained employed.

(6)

Unvested portions of equity-based awards will accelerate upon a change of control irrespective of whether the executive’s employment terminates in connection with the change in control.

Other Agreements

Each of our named executive officers has entered into standard agreements with respect to confidential information and assignment of inventions. Among other things, these agreements obligate each named executive officer to refrain from disclosing any of our proprietary information and to assign to us any inventions conceived or developed during the course of employment. Such agreements also contain customary non-compete and non-solicitation provisions.

We have entered into indemnification agreements with each of our directors and certain officers. These agreements will require us to indemnify these individuals and, in certain cases, affiliates of such individuals, to the fullest extent permissible under applicable law against liabilities that may arise by reason of their service to us or at our direction, and to advance expenses incurred as a result of any proceeding against them as to which they could be indemnified. We also maintain a general liability insurance policy, which covers certain liabilities of directors and officers of our Company arising out of claims based on acts or omissions in their capacities as directors or officers. We believe that these provisions and agreements are necessary to attract and retain qualified persons as directors and officers.

Chief Executive Officer Pay Ratio

Akebia’s compensation and benefits philosophy and the overall structure of our compensation and benefit programs encourage and reward all employees who contribute to our success. We strive to ensure that the pay of our employees reflects the level of their job impact and responsibilities and is competitive within our peer group. Compensation rates are benchmarked and set to be market competitive. As required by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, we are required to disclose the median of the annual total compensation of our employees (except for our principal executive officer), the annual total compensation of our principal executive officer, and the ratio of these two amounts.

Using reasonable estimates and assumptions where necessary, and in accordance with SEC rules, in 2022 we identified our median employee by calculating the sum of annual base pay, target bonus amount, 401(k) company match contributions and the grant date fair value for equity awards granted in 2022 for all of our employees, excluding our Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Butler, who were employed by us on December 31, 2022. However, we did perform adjustments to the compensation paid to our one part-time employee to calculate what they would have been paid on a full-time basis. No cost-of-living adjustment or other adjustments were made. Using this median compensated employee, we calculated the total annual compensation for this employee by using the same methodology we use for our named executive officers as disclosed in the 2022 Summary Compensation Table above.

The annual total compensation of our Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Butler, as reported in the 2022 Summary Compensation Table was $3,036,388 for 2022. The annual total compensation of our median compensated employee, excluding Mr. Butler, was $234,717 for 2022, resulting in a ratio of 13:1 for 2022. This ratio and annual total compensation amounts are reasonable estimates that have been calculated using methodologies and assumptions permitted by SEC rules. Given that assumptions, estimates, methodologies, and adjustments that companies may apply to determine their pay ratio may differ, this information should not be used as a basis for comparison between different companies.

 

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Equity Compensation Plan Information

The following table sets forth information as of December 31, 2022 regarding shares of our Common Stock that may be issued under our equity compensation plans, consisting of our Amended and Restated 2008 Equity Incentive Plan, or our 2008 Plan, our 2014 Plan, our Amended and Restated 2014 Employee Stock Purchase Plan, or the ESPP, and our inducement award program through which equity awards are granted to individuals who were not previously an employee or non-employee director of the Company, or following a bona fide period of non-employment, as an inducement material to such individual’s entering into employment with the Company, pursuant to Rule 5635(c)(4) of the Nasdaq Listing Rules. As of the closing of our initial public offering, no additional equity awards were made under our 2008 Plan. Our 2008 Plan, our 2014 Plan, and our ESPP were approved by our stockholders.

 

Plan category

   Number of securities to
be issued upon exercise
of outstanding options,
warrants and rights
    Weighted-average
exercise price of
outstanding
options,
warrants and rights
($)
    Number of securities remaining
available for future issuance
under equity compensation
plans (excluding securities
reflected in column (a))
 
     (a)     (b)     (c)  

Equity compensation plans approved by security holders

     14,893,715 (1)(2)      6.14 (3)      10,336,979 (4)(6) 

Equity compensation plans not approved by security holders

     2,513,512 (5)      5.57       —    

Total

     17,407,227       —         10,336,979  

 

(1)

Includes 8,812,578 shares of Common Stock issuable upon the exercise of outstanding options, 5,236,451 shares of our Common Stock issuable upon the vesting of RSUs, 444,686 shares of Common Stock issuable upon the vesting of PSUs, and 400,000 target shares of Common Stock issuable upon the vesting of performance options.

(2)

Does not include purchase rights accruing under the ESPP because the purchase right, and therefore the number of shares to be purchased, will not be determined until the end of the purchase period. In addition, RSUs issued under our equity compensation plans do not require payment by the recipient to us at the time of vesting. As such, the weighted-average exercise price does not take these awards into account.

(3)

Excludes the exercise price of the performance options granted to Mr. Dahan and Ms. Hadas because the grant date fair value of the performance options is based on the probability of achievement of the Corporate Performance Milestone at the time of grant, which was 0%. Including the weighted-average exercise price of performance options would result in a weighted-average exercise price of $5.89.

(4)

As of December 31, 2022, there were 5,498,984 shares of our Common Stock available for grant under the 2014 Plan, and 4,837,995 shares of our Common Stock available for grant under the ESPP.

(5)

Represents the number of shares of our Common Stock granted as inducements material to employees entering into employment with the Company in accordance with Nasdaq Listing Rule 5635(c)(4) and outstanding as of December 31, 2022.

(6)

On January 1, 2022 and January 1, 2021, the shares reserved for future grants under the 2014 Plan increased by 5,807,270 and 4,880,775 shares, respectively, pursuant to the “evergreen” provision in the 2014 Plan.

 

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Compensation Committee Report

The Compensation Committee has reviewed and discussed the disclosure included in the Compensation Discussion and Analysis section of this Proxy Statement with management. Based on this review and discussion, the Compensation Committee recommends to the Board of Directors that the disclosure in the Compensation Discussion and Analysis section be included in this Proxy Statement for the year ended December 31, 2022.

Respectfully submitted by the Compensation Committee,

Cynthia Smith, Chairperson

Adrian Adams

Steven C. Gilman, Ph.D.

 

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COMPENSATION COMMITTEE INTERLOCKS AND INSIDER PARTICIPATION

As described above, during 2022, the members of our Compensation Committee included Mr. Adams, Mr. Gilman and Ms. Smith. None of the members of the Compensation Committee is an officer or employee of the Company, nor have they ever been an officer or employee of the Company. None of our executive officers currently serves, or in the past fiscal year has served, as a member of the board of directors or compensation committee, or other committee serving an equivalent function, of any entity that has one or more executive officers serving on our Board of Directors or Compensation Committee.

 

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PAY VERSUS PERFORMANCE
Pay Versus Performance
In accordance with rules adopted by the Securities and Exchange Commission pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, we provide the following disclosure regarding executive compensation for our principal executive officer, or PEO, and
non-PEO
named executive officers, or
Non-PEO
NEOs, and our performance for the fiscal years listed below.
This disclosure has been prepared in accordance with Item 402(v) of Regulation
S-K
under the Exchange Act and does not necessarily reflect value actually realized by the executives or how our Compensation Committee evaluates compensation decisions in light of company or individual performance. For discussion of how our Compensation Committee seeks to align pay with performance when making compensation decisions,
please
review Compensation Discussion and Analysis beginning on page 42.
 
                           
Value of Initial Fixed
$100
Investment Based on:
             
Year
(a)
 
Summary
Compensation
Table Total
for PEO (1)
$
(b)
   
Compensation
Actually Paid
to PEO (2)(3)
$
(c)
   
Average
Summary
Compensation
Table Total
for
Non-PEO

Named
Executive
Officers (4)
$
(d)
   
Average
Compensation
Actually Paid
to
Non-PEO

Named
Executive
Officers
(2)(3)(4)
$
(e)
   
Total
Shareholder
Return
$
(f)
   
Peer Group
Total
Shareholder
Return (5)
$
(g)
   
Net Income
(Loss)
(in millions)
$
(h)
   
Net Product
Revenue (6)
(in millions)
$
(i)
 
2022
    3,036,388       671,389       1,372,956       621,735       9.13       113.65       (92.6     177.1  
2021
    3,133,316       2,424,435       1,402,223       1,166,993       35.76       126.45       (282.8     142.2  
2020
    5,930,437       1,990,802       1,904,276       696,805       44.30       126.42       (383.5     128.9  
 
(1)
The PEO was John P. Butler for all years in the table.
(2)
The amounts shown for Compensation Actually Paid have been calculated in accordance with Item 402(v) of Regulation
S-K
and do not reflect compensation actually earned, realized, or received by the Company’s named executive officers during the applicable years. These amounts reflect the Summary Compensation Table Total with certain adjustments made in accordance with Item 402(v), as summarized in the following table:
 
   
2022
   
2021
   
2020
 
Adjustments
 
PEO
   
Average
Non-PEO

NEOs
   
PEO
   
Average
Non-PEO

NEOs
   
PEO
   
Average
Non-PEO

NEOs
 
Total Compensation from Summary Compensation Table
 
$
3,036,388
 
 
 
1,372,956
 
 
 
3,133,316
 
 
 
1,402,223
 
 
 
5,930,437
 
 
 
1,904,276
 
Adjustments for Pension
                                               
Adjustment Summary Compensation Table Pension
  $        $        $        $        $        $     
Amount added for current year service cost
  $        $        $        $        $        $     
Amount added for prior service cost impacting current year
  $        $        $        $        $        $     
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Total Adjustments for Pension
 
$
  
 
 
$
  
 
 
$
  
 
 
$
  
 
 
$