CEO Bonuses Soar as Qantas Boss Alan Joyce Tops List of highest-paid Executives
By ABC News
Sep 17, 2019 - 2:10:40 AM
PHOTO: Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce topped the list of highest paid CEOs in 2018, but his pay has since halved. (AAP: Joel Carrett)
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Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce has topped the list of Australia's highest-paid chief executives for 2018, taking home $23.9 million - which is more than 275 times the full-time average wage.
- A report by the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI) has found most of the nation's top 100 CEOs got a big bonus in the 2018 financial year
- Pressure is growing on companies to be more transparent with shareholders about CEO pay
- The ACSI is calling for Australia to look to a UK model where CEO pay is to be measured against that of their company's average worker
The 2018 financial year was another bumper year for CEO bonuses, according to a report by the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI).
Of the nation's 100 largest companies, only one CEO eligible for a bonus was not awarded one: Domino's boss Don Meij.
In the 2017 financial year Mr Meij had topped the ACSI's list with realised pay of $36.8 million, mostly gained via an exercise of options.
But this did not recur in FY18 with Mr Meij's realised pay (which includes cash and the actual value of equity that vested during the year) falling to $7.06 million, largely due to the company's share price declining.
Across the top companies, average realised pay dropped to $5.66 million from $6.23 million, following the departure of several highly paid CEOs.
It was also due to the fact that only two CEOs realised more than $20 million in FY18: Mr Joyce and Macquarie's Nicholas Moore (who has since been replaced by Shemara Wikramanayake as chief executive).
Mr Joyce reaped the rewards of a large long-term incentive allocation granted in 2014 when the share price was $1.26, which vested in full during FY2018, when the Qantas share price was $5.66. His pay has since halved.
Here are the top CEOs based on realised pay in the 2018 financial year:
- Alan Joyce, Qantas Airways ($23,876,351)
- Nicholas Moore, Macquarie Group ($23,855,580)
- Michael Clarke, Treasury Wine Estates ($19,024,334)
- Bob Vassie, St Barbara ($13,246,088)
- Craig Scroggie, NextDC ($12,515,914)
- Sandeep Biswas, Newcrest Mining ($12,083,392)
- Brian Benari, Challenger Group ($11,696,001)
- Raleigh Finlayson, Saracen Mineral Holdings ($11,284,256)
- Andrew Bassat, Seek ($10,744,472)
- Colin Goldschmidt, Sonic Healthcare ($10,017,376)
Median bonus for the ASX100 CEO hits $1.61 million
ACSI chief executive Louise Davidson wants to see more transparency on pay, noting the banking royal commission had resulted in a decline in the public's trust of major companies and their management.
Australia's rich keep getting richer, with the top 1 per cent of Australians owning more wealth than the bottom 70 per cent combined.
Ms Davidson is calling for Australia to look to a UK model where CEO pay is to be measured against that of their company's average worker.
The ACSI also wants to see board directors be elected annually, rather than every three years as is the case presently.
"The way bonuses are being handed out suggests there is a culture of entitlement whereby supposedly 'at risk' pay is not very risky at all," Ms Davidson said.
The ACSI's report found more than half of ASX100 CEOs received at least 70 per cent of their maximum entitlement - a figure almost unchanged in four years.
The median bonus awarded to an ASX100 CEO in FY18 was $1.61 million - the second highest in the history of the survey, which is in its 18th year.
There were five ASX100 CEOs in FY18 who received 100 per cent of their maximum bonus.
This included Treasury Wine Estate's Michael Clarke, who in his four full years as CEO has received maximum bonus every year.
The others were Crown's John Alexander, TPG Telecom's David Teoh and Adelaide Brighton's Martin Brydon.
CEOs opt for equity over cash
There is a trend for CEOs to defer bonuses and opt for equity over cash.
The median cash bonus fell 16.5 per cent for ASX100 CEOs to $927,159.
These payments occurred in a year when the banking royal commission heard evidence, on an almost daily basis, that executives were not being held accountable for poor conduct.
"Intuitively, we would have expected that bonus outcomes would have been lower amid such intense scrutiny from regulators, politicians, the public and investors," Ms Davidson said.
It also came in the wake of unprecedented investor revolt against CEO pay, with more than 88 per cent of shareholders opposing NAB's renumeration report at its annual general meeting in Melbourne last year.
Ms Davidson said corporate Australia had not got the message that bonus payments should be variable and awarded for exceptional performance, rather than being fixed pay under another name.
"This is a failure of both discipline and leadership," Ms Davidson said.
In FY2018 the highest ranked of big four bank CEOs on a realised pay basis was NAB's Andrew Thorburn at 26th place.
His realised pay was $6.2 million due to the vesting in FY2018 of long-term incentives granted in 2012.
Ten CEOs got paid over $10 million
Ten CEOs realised more than $10 million in pay last year - three of them in the ASX101-200.
CBA CEO Ian Narev has unwittingly highlighted the farce that is the executive bonus, writes Ian Verrender.
The median realised pay for an ASX100 CEO rose to $4.5 million, up 3.2 per cent from the prior year.
ABS data shows that in the 12 months to November 2018, average full-time wage, with overtime and penalty rates, was $1,668.1 a week (up 2.2 per cent). That is, an average of $86,736 annually.
That is about 276 times smaller than Mr Joyce's take-home pay of $23.9 million.
But it was an exceptional year for Mr Joyce. His annual salary, announced late last month, was reported at $10 million as the company revealed other Qantas executives saw modest decreases in their total salaries following a 17 per cent drop in annual profit.
"Qantas remains one of the best-performing airline groups in the world, but executive pay has dropped twice in the two years since the data in this report," a Qantas spokesman said.
A new entrant to the top 10 was Treasury's Mr Clarke.
His fixed pay and bonus potential rose from $5.5 million in FY17 to $6.25 million, and in late 2017 Mr Clarke's first long-term incentive allocation and the deferred equity component of prior year bonuses also vested in full, generating a gain of $13.12 million.
A spokeswoman for Treasury said the value driven for TWE shareholders in the past five years under Mr Clarke's leadership has increased fivefold.
Another new entrant into the top 10 included Challenger's former CEO Brian Benari (he retired as Challenger CEO in January 2019), again a beneficiary of substantial share price increases to September 2017 increasing the value of equity incentives.
A spokeswoman for Challenger said the company had recently undertaken a review of its renumeration to ensure "clear alignment with shareholder interests and enhanced disclosure and transparency".
Fixed pay takes a hit
While bonuses were up, fixed pay for CEOs was flat.
Median fixed pay for an ASX100 CEO was up 1 per cent to $1.79 million in FY18, having increased by an average of just 0.2 per cent per annum over the prior decade.
Average fixed pay for an ASX100 CEO fell 1.3 per cent from $1.91 million to $1.88 million, largely due to Westfield Corporation's co-CEOs no longer being included in the sample (the Lowy brothers regularly received realised pay above $20 million).
Ms Davidson noted that over the past year several companies had lowered remuneration for incoming CEOs, reducing cash pay by deferring incentives into equity, and ensuring that incentives are subject to clawback provisions where there has been poor performance.
There were only two CEOs in the ASX101-200 sample for FY17 and FY18 with fixed pay above $2 million: Premier's Mark McInnes and Seven West's Tim Worner.
Exiting CEOs cost shareholders $25.15 million last year, down from $33.63 million in the 2017 financial year - largely due to a decline in the number of termination payments from 20 to 15.
The highest termination payment in the FY18 sample went to former Adelaide Brighton CEO Martin Brydon at $4.43 million, in addition to a $1.47 million bonus for FY18 that the report said was effectively part of his departure arrangements.
The ACSI members include 38 Australian and international asset owners and institutional investors, which manage over $2.2 trillion in assets and own on average 10 per cent of every ASX200 company.
"Investors want to see a greater focus from boards on assessing whether their existing incentive schemes are truly rewarding executives for exceptional performance, or just a top-up for meeting budget," Ms Davidson said.
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