Safeway Inc. doesn’t seem to know exactly how much their CEO made last year, or any year before that. They’ve released financial reports year after year which show CEO Steve Burd’s compensation to be somewhere around $11 million dollars. This doesn’t include the over $200 thousand that he receives as the chairman of the board for the Kohl’s Corporation. We’ve written story after story here on our blog about his hefty salary. We’ve even reminded you that it would take over 300 years for the average worker to equal just one year of his compensation.
Those are some pretty intense figures, aren’t they?
It’s pretty ironic that Safeway suddenly doesn’t quite know what their CEO makes. They are alleging that two proxy advisory companies that are calling for shareholders to vote ‘No’ on the incentive pay plan that’s being proposed for the May 15th meeting have their numbers wrong. The grocery chain is claiming that there is a huge difference between what they call, “reported compensation” and “realized compensation”. What does this mean? Essentially, Safeway is saying that while they have reported that Burd’s compensation in 2011 was $11.5 million, those are not the real figures. They claim that while he COULD have received $11.5 million, he only actually took home $4 million. Safeway was so alarmed by the mention of the compensation amount that’s listed in all of their publicly accessible company documents that they issued a response just to debunk the “myth”. This seems a little extreme for them to do. In fact, they seemed to be a bit emotional when they wrote the release. They say on page 2, “Is ISS really serious about this criticism?” The document itself is 5 pages long and includes a graph and charts. They must really want this proposal to pass.
Why is Safeway so upset that someone is challenging their proposal that would provide even more money to the entire top of the company?
Both proxy advisory companies, ISS Proxy Advisory Services and Glass Lewis & Co have said that Burd and the rest of Safeway’s board are compensated too well, considering the company’s overall performance. We have to agree with them. There are many stories that have been written about Burd over the years. We’ve yet to find one where the company request a retraction to correct the CEO’s compensation amount. The figures that the company should be focused on involve their rank and file workers on the shop floors. The average grocery worker at Safeway is still fighting to get enough hours to work on a weekly basis. The lack of hours isn’t because the stores aren’t busy, because they are. We’d like to think that the money could be better allocated at the store level where the customers that make Safeway profitable are directly served by us.
We’ll be watching on May 15 and we hope you will too. Join us as we watch Safeway’s Annual Shareholder Meeting live at 4:30 PM ET. On May 15, you can visit this link to see the meeting broadcast live under their “Webcast” header: http://www.safeway.com/investor_relations
Read more about the fight over Burd’s compensation in a piece by the San Francisco Business Times.