Taking the CEO Salary Fight Local

Portland, Oregon’s government will be the first to test the legislative waters on excessive CEO pay by companies if passed the city board December 7, 2016. If the pay of a CEO exceeds 100 times of what a typical company employee makes, a surtax will be assessed the corporation. More than 500 corporations do enough business within Portland to be affected by the new tax. Since the Republican led Congress has failed to act on CEO excessive pay based upon Risk, many states and cities are looking at taking it upon themselves to assess companies who pay their executives in stock options and similar performance methods as it is taxed at a lower level than regular income. With the new tax, Portland is expected to generate up to $3.5 million, which will be used to care for the homeless.

Firms that do business in Portland would owe a 10 percent surtax on the city’s existing business tax if they pay their CEOs more than 100 times what their workers receive. For example, if a large company owes the city $100,000 and has a pay ratio of 175-to-1, its surtax would be $10,000. Other cities such as San Francisco are considering taking similar action.

Peter Drucker had strong feelings on the subject and he once termed sky-high CEO compensation ‘a serious disaster,’ which was well worth revisiting in light of the news that the men who sat atop Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (FRE) (BusinessWeek, 9/10/08) could be eligible for as much as $24 million in severance and other benefits after being ousted from their positions. Last week the federal government was forced to step in and rescue the faltering mortgage giants in a move that could cost taxpayers billions.”

Around that time CEO’s had income packages worth $10.5 million or about 344 times what the average worker was making. Peter Drucker felt a CEO’s pay should not exceed 20 times (1984) what the average worker was making in income. As of 1993 the problem has worsened as companies dodge corporate income tax by paying their CEO is stock options which can be deducted from corporate income tax and are tax at a lower rate than ordinary income tax at ~39%.

References:

“Put A Cap on CEO Pay” , Rick Wartzman, Bloomberg, September 12, 2008.

“Take The CEO Pay Fight Local”, Sarah Anderson, US News, October 21, 2016.

Institute for Policy Studies — Talking Points —, Sarah Anderson, October, 2016.

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