Score one for the little guys, where the little guys are shareholders of Citigroup and the Goliath in need of a slingshot of reality is its CEO seeking a $15 million raise. Sure, he only made $1 the year before, but this is big news as it’s the first times shareholders have rejected the executive pay package at a major bank since the Dodd-Frank act made votes mandatory a year ago.
As Fortune reports the “say on pay” regulations started with the Dodd-Frank bank reform were put to the test yesterday, when shareholders at Citigroup said CEO Vikram Pandit shouldn’t make $15 million for 2011. Critics say he should be at around $9 million instead.
Now what? Will the board listen to its shareholders and come up with another answer? Well, Dodd-Frank says all companies have to get a vote from shareholders on executive pay every year, but it isn’t binding. Companies don’t have to do what the shareholders say. Around 55% of Citi’s shareholders voted to reject Pandit and other Citi executives’ pay.
Citi says in a statement they’ll take the vote “seriously,” and try to understand their shareholders’ concerns, adding, “the Personnel and Compensation Committee of the board will carefully consider their input as we move forward.”
Banks are less likely to be responsive to critics of their pay packages, but last year there were plenty of other companies who cut some of those packages after shareholders objected.
The basic mindset is — if Citi’s shareholders don’t like what the executives are getting paid, they can always sell their shares and hit the road. This objection, however, could be the start of a new era of disapproval over Wall Street and CEO pay.