Less than two weeks ago we launched our report, “The 100 Most Overpaid CEOs: Are Fund Managers Asleep at the Wheel.” (If you missed the webinar you can view it on the site.)
The response has been fantastic, and we hope this recap will inspire you to think of ways you can take action.
Robert Reich’s Facebook February 18th post had the largest reach. At one point, the number of downloads directed from Reich’s link out-numbered, by 6 to 1, those coming from all other sources combined. His post on our report began: “CEO pay keeps skyrocketing, as does the pay of the top executives under them – expropriating the money of millions of people with pensions, IRAs, and 401(k) plans. Why can’t we do anything about this? Because almost all this money is parked in giant mutual funds that don’t want to rock the boat – so they approve these scandalous pay packages.” Reich noted some of the funds most likely to approve the packages, but also noted that, in his words, not all funds “kiss the derriers of CEOs this much.” He concluded, “The point is, if you have an IRA or 401(k), it’s your money. And you can switch from a fund that’s in bed with CEOs to one that’s not.” His post was shared over 2,000 times.
The first article to hit the wires was Caleb Melby and Alicia Ritcey’s Bloomberg, piece that focused particularly on Vanguard, Blackrock, and TIAA-CREF as outliers. These funds — described in a table as “CEO Pay Superfans” – are very much deserving of the attention they received. The reporters also interviewed Joseph Chi, co-head of portfolio management at Dimensional, a fund that had among the most improved voting records compared to last year’s report. “We continue to press on this issue because it is important to shareholders.”
Jenna McGregor in her Washington Post article headlined, “Your retirement plans may be supporting the most overpaid CEOs” also interviewed – or attempted to – a number of funds that were excessive supporters of pay packages. The article concludes with a quote from Nell Minow (a governance expert that appeared on the webinar), making the cogent point that such high votes act as “cover” for over-paying boards and compensation committee members.
If you’d like to see a slide show of each of the top ten most over paid, check out Yuval Rosenberg’s Fiscal Times article “This CEO got $142 million more than he deserved.” Each slide gives additional information on the company and CEO. A similar countdown story was written by Laura Kulikowski of TheStreet.com.
If you are interested in seeing how the list changed year over year Angelo Young of the International Business Times (which covered the story last year as well), took the time to analyze and compare last year’s list.
James McRitchie, of CorprateGovernance.net wrote that, “Influencing corporate governance may be a more direct way of creating a future world aligned with our own values than focusing on government alone.” His great write-up of our report adds, “Don’t look to the 1% to save us. They’re sitting fat and happy with the current system. If we want the system to change, we need to pay attention to how our investments are voted.”
Local newspapers in Pittsburgh, Orange County, California, and Waco, Texas took the study and connected it to individual companies with connections to the region. A reporter in Kansas focused on a local fund in: “Waddell gets panned for rubber-stamping CEO pay at investments.”
The article in Orange County generated some push back, the Orange County Register did an editorial pushing back on the idea, with the title: “CEO pay: most cats not fat.” That, unfortunately, has been picked up by some smaller papers as well. We’re working on a response to it – but for now will just note that the data cited is from the American Enterprise Institute and does not distinguish between public and private company CEOs. The use of average can also distort (if I’m alone in a room with a newborn baby the average age in the room is 26, but that statistic is meaningless.)
Coverage was also good in the industry press which means the people who have some power are hearing about it too. Pension & Investments covered the study twice, once specifically, and also in a larger story on the up-coming proxy season. The report was covered in Responsible Investor and by the Human Resources industry. (Coverage at these publications is hbehind pay walls.)
The coverage continues to come in. Triple Pundit (people, planet, profit) published this article March 1.
We’re very grateful to you all.
This is going to be an exciting proxy season!