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McGuire also took his message to the airwaves, and he went on CNBC's "Street Signs" to discuss the company's profitable first quarter and address the compensation issue.
"I and a lot of other people at the company are very fortunate to have been part of a company that started almost as a bankrupt company and has prospered," he said on CNBC. "We're going to consider terminating or slowing down stock options for our most senior employees, and I'm one of those. We don't need to give any more. We're very attentive to the wishes of our constituency, which includes shareholders and customers."
Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch said late Tuesday that his office will attempt to intervene in a shareholders lawsuit that was filed against UnitedHealth over the options issue; it was filed in federal court in Minneapolis late last month.
"We've gotten a ton of calls on this," Hatch said. "We don't know if anything is wrong; we just think as a matter of public policy we want to know what's going on."
At UnitedHealth, forgoing future options still will leave top executives with sizable holdings.
At the end of 2005, McGuire's exercisable options totaled $1.6 billion, according to a proxy statement filed by the company with the SEC on April 7. Stephen Hemsley, president and chief operating officer of the Minnetonka-based health care organization, holds exercisable options of nearly $663 million. Two other executives have options worth $50 million to $60 million.
The announcement about executive compensation came on the same day that United raised its 2006 earnings estimate to a range of $2.88 to $2.92 a share, from a previous forecast of $2.85 to $2.90 a share. But United's stock price lost $2, or almost 4 percent, Tuesday, and at $49.67 is down about 12.4 percent since questions first were raised about the timing of executive options.