Executive pay has come under the microscope in recent years, with top brass increasingly making hundreds of times the pay of the average worker. Awareness of the pay scale is now prompting some shareholders to take action, though others caution that inflated compensation is what is needed to secure talent in the current environment. According to the AFL-CIO annual Executive Paywatch report, the average S&P 500 CEO made 299 times the average worker's pay in 2020, when factoring in salary, bonuses and stock.
Stinging rebuke: Only 31% of investors at JPMorgan's (NYSE:JPM) annual shareholder meeting voted in favor of a $52.6M stock option award that was part of CEO Jamie Dimon's 2021 compensation package. It was the first time the bank's board lost such a vote since it was introduced in 2009, and was significantly lower than the previous weakest level of investor support, which came in at 61.4% in 2015. While the shareholder vote is non-binding, the bank's board said it would take the feedback "seriously" and intended for the bonus to be a one-time event.
"The special award was extremely rare - the first in more than a decade for Mr. Dimon - and it reflected exemplary leadership and additional incentive for a successful leadership transition," said JPMorgan spokesman Joe Evangelisti. He also noted that the package was designed to keep Dimon at the helm for another five years by pegging the award to the bank's share price appreciation. Dimon would only be awarded if JPMorgan's stock rose above $148.73 in the coming years (it's currently trading at $122.18, but hit a high of $172.96 back in November).
Disapproval is spreading: Shares of Intel (INTC) climbed 3% on Tuesday after investors voted against the compensation of some of its top executives, including part of a $178.6M payout for CEO Pat Gelsinger. While the motion was also advisory and won't take immediate effect, it does send a signal to those that are closely watching the semiconductor giant's performance. Shareholders at AT&T (T) and General Electric (GE) also voted against hiking executive compensation packages this year following lackluster first-quarter results.