Recent events have increased concerns about the extraordinarily high levels of executive compensation at many U.S. corporations. Concerns about the structure of executive compensation packages have also intensified, with some suggesting that the compensation system incentivized excessive risk-taking.
In a Forbes article on Wall Street pay, the director of the Program on Corporate Governance at Harvard Law School noted that, “compensation policies will prove to be quite costly—excessively costly—to shareholders.” Another study by Glass Lewis & Co. declared that compensation packages for the most highly paid U.S. executives “have been so over-the-top that they have skewed the standards for what’s reasonable.” That study also found that CEO pay may be high even when performance is mediocre or dismal.
In 2008, Federal Appeals Court Judge Richard Posner stated that, “executive pay is out of control and the marketplace cannot be trusted to rein it in.” Legislative attempts to address executive compensation include the Excessive Pay Shareholder Approval Act, which mandates that no employee’s compensation may exceed 100 times the average compensation paid to all employees of a given company unless at least 60% of shareholders vote to approve such compensation.
A 2008 piece in BusinessWeek revealed that, “Chief executive officers at companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index earned more than $4,000 an hour each [in 2007].” It also noted that an S&P 500 CEO had to work, on average, approximately 3 hours in 2007 “to earn what a minimum wage worker earned for the full year.”
A September 2007 study of Fortune 500 firms showed that top executives’ pay averaged $10.8 million the previous year, or more than 364 times the pay of the average U.S. worker. Another study by the Economic Policy Institute found that between 1989 and 2007, average CEO pay rose by 163% while the wages of the average worker in the United States rose by only 10%.
Shareholders request the Board’s Compensation Committee initiate a review of our company’s executive compensation policies and make available, upon request, a summary report of that review by October 1, 2010 (omitting confidential information and processed at a reasonable cost). We request that the report include:
1. A comparison of the total compensation package of senior executives and our employees’ median wage in the United States in July 2000, July 2004 & July 2009.
2. An analysis of changes in the relative size of the gap and an analysis and rationale justifying this trend.
3. An evaluation of whether our senior executive compensation packages (including, but not limited to, options, benefits, perks, loans and retirement agreements) are “excessive” and should be modified to be kept within reasonable boundaries.
4. An explanation of whether sizable layoffs or the level of pay of our lowest paid workers should result in an adjustment of senior executive pay to “more reasonable and justifiable levels” and whether JPMorgan Chase should monitor this comparison going forward.