Apple finished its latest fiscal year with a record profit of $99.8 billion. And what did CEO Tim Cook get for his efforts? The board’s compensation committee slashed his target pay for 2023 to $49 million, a 40% reduction.
The company said it is making changes to Cook’s compensation, with Cook’s blessing, to be “responsive to shareholder feedback, while continuing both to align pay with performance and to recognize Mr. Cook’s outstanding leadership.”
Corporate governance experts say the move may reverberate through corporate America, causing other companies to ratchet back pay in an era where shareholders are increasingly showing their disapproval for rich pay packages by voting “no” in “say-on-pay” votes at annual meetings.
Aalap Shah, managing director at compensation consultancy Pearl Meyer, said shareholder say-on-pay votes aren’t the only factor putting downward pressure on compensation.
With stock prices down—the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite tumbled 33% last year—companies are scaling back stock grants to avoid a scenario where executives end up with an outsized windfall if shares bounce back.
Boards, he said, are ”making sure they’re not over-extended in a down market.”
On top of that, he said, some companies are reluctant to push up pay during a period where mass layoffs, especially in tech, have become commonplace. He said pay increases can invite criticism, such as, “If you’re going to have a compensation increase, couldn’t you have used it to keep people in place?”