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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A growing number of companies are facing investor backlash against fat C-suite pay packages.

Why it matters: Shareholders are eyeing pay more closely after a year that crushed the economy, decimated some businesses (and displaced their workers) — but still left some top executives with hefty payouts.

Catch up quick: What's typically a procedural signoff on how much leaders will be paid is turning into a rebellion of sorts.

  • At least eight have seen compensation slapped down by a majority of shareholders at annual meetings, twice as many as this time last year.
  • Proxy advisor ISS — which influences how big shareholders vote — supported just 77% of executive pay proposals (versus the 89% they supported in 2020).

What they're saying: This year's "unusually low support levels" show investors punishing "companies that made significant changes to executive compensation without descriptive disclosure and/or a compelling rationale," Alliance Advisors' James Miller wrote in a note out today.

  • About 53% of shareholders voted against Walgreens' payout plan earlier this year. The pharmacy chain cut out part of 2020 results from a bonus calculation.
  • That calculation shift meant a few executives were eligible for equity awards "worth $7.68 million that otherwise would have been forfeited" without that change, Bloomberg reports.
  • AT&T, Starbucks and General Electric also saw executive pay proposals shot down by a majority of investors for the first time in years.

But, but, but: Votes on pay are nonbinding, so companies ultimately do what they want. However, it sends a strong signal to top ranks that's rarely ignored for long.

What to watch: For companies that have received shareholder approval for pay packages, they're increasingly close calls. Historically, investors support them by a wide margin.

  • 57% of Wells Fargo investors approved its CEO pay plan, "among the lowest support for a major U.S. bank" on record, per Reuters.

Go deeper

Labor shortage has employers scrambling to offer new perks

Balloons tied to a suitcase. Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Companies are rolling out perks at a feverish clip to lure employees.

Why it matters: The economy is roaring back. Companies are pulling out all stops to win over the workers they need to meet demand.

Updated 3 hours ago - World

Reports: Up to 17 U.S. missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince earlier this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

Children were among up to 17 American Christian missionaries and their relatives kidnapped by a gang in Haiti on Saturday, the New York Times first reported.

Details: The missionaries had just left an orphanage and were traveling by bus to the airport to "drop off some members" and were due to travel to another destination when the gang struck in Port-au-Prince, Haitian security officials said, per the NYT.

5 hours ago - World

Melbourne, "world's most locked-down city," to lift stay-at-home orders

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews during a news conference in Melbourne, Australia, on Sunday. Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Melbourne's stay-at-home orders will end five days earlier than planned, officials in Australia's second-biggest city announced Sunday.

Why it matters: The capital of the state of Victoria has had six lockdowns totaling 262 days since March last year. That means Melbourne spent longer under lockdown than "any other city in the world" during the pandemic, Reuters notes.