Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

High payment to CEOs who do badly draws fire

A report singled out Dell, Ford and 10 other major corporations.

Dell Inc. and Ford Motor Co. are among 12 major U.S. companies that "pay for failure" by compensating chief executive officers more than industry rivals even as their shares lag behind, according to a new study.

The report by the Corporate Library, an independent group that monitors companies' governance policies, said the chief executives it singled out received $1.26 billion over five years while presiding over a loss of $330 billion in shareholder value.

"Far too much executive compensation is delivered without any link to performance," Paul Hodgson, the study's author, said in an e-mailed statement. The report by the Portland, Maine, group aimed to highlight "bad decisions made by compensation committees," he said.

Pay for chief executives in the United States rose 200 percent from 1990 to 2004, compared with an 87 percent increase in corporate earnings, leading to investor lawsuits and calls to curb executive pay.

The Securities and Exchange Commission enacted rules last year intended to make it easier for investors to understand and restrain compensation packages given to top company officials.

The Corporate Library looked at pay among the members of the Standard & Poor's 500 index. The "pay for failure" list, released this week, is of those S&P companies that paid chief executives in excess of $15 million while their share prices declined in the last five years and lagged their peer groups.

The Home Depot Inc., Pfizer Inc., Time Warner Inc., Verizon Communications Inc., and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. made the so-called pay-for-failure list for a second year.

Others listed in the 2007 study were Affiliated Computer Services Inc., Eli Lilly & Co., Abbott Laboratories, Qwest Communications International Inc., and Wyeth.

AT&T Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., and Safeway Inc. were among those identified last year that didn't make the list this year.

Several companies among the dozen changed top management over the last year. Home Depot and Pfizer were sharply criticized by shareholders for awarding departure packages to their chief executives worth an estimated $200 million each.

Dell paid its chief executive, Michael Dell, and his predecessor, Kevin Rollins, a total of $193 million in the last two years, according to the Corporate Library, while the company's shares have fallen 0.7 percent in the last year and 7.7 percent in the last five years. Michael Dell, the company founder, reclaimed the chief executive post in January from Rollins.

Bob Pearson, a spokesman for the Round Rock, Texas, maker of personal computers, said that Dell Inc. was "focused on building value for the long term" and that its track record over the 23 years since being founded proved that.

Ford paid its new chief executive, Alan Mulally, and his predecessor, William Clay Ford Jr., a total of $27 million over the last two years, the Corporate Library said. Ford shares have tumbled 41 percent in the last five years.

Becky Sanch, a spokeswoman for the Dearborn, Mich., automaker, said most of Mulally's 2006 compensation, $18.5 million, was what the carmaker had to pay to recruit him. Mulally took over in September.