3 Overpaid CEOs Raking In Far More Than They Are Worth

In a battle of the overpaid CEOs, Elon Musk recently made fun of Lucid Group (NASDAQ:LCID) CEO Peter Rawlinson for hauling in $379 million in 2022. Most of that was from options and stock awards vested during the year. 

As the Automotive News points out, you won’t be able to detect the superb pay from Lucid’s 2022 proxy. The Summary Compensation Table only shows $596,430 in total compensation. However, page 58 of the proxy reveals that the CEO earned $5.5 million from options exercised and $372.9 million from stock awards. Yet, Rawlinson only trailed one name in 2022.

Nvidia (NASDAQ:NVDA) CEO and co-founder Jen-Hsun Huang checked in at the number one spot. 

Who else was paid a lot more than they were worth in 2022? I’ll pick three names from the Automotive News/Equilar annual list of shame.    

General Motors (GM)

Since the promotion of Mary Barra to CEO of General Motors (NYSE:GM) in January 2014, she simply has not delivered for shareholders. GM stock is down 18% in the decade since her promotion. If you had invested your funds in the S&P 500, you’d be up 144% over the same period. 

For that considerable underperformance, Barra was paid $34.1 million in 2022, putting her in a distant third from Rawlinson. Barra likely earned more than $200 million over the past decade. 

Despite these nice sums, the overall long-term underperformance of GM stock has likely cost the engineer hundreds of millions more that she didn’t earn due to lagging the index. 

Now, it’s almost certain that the United Auto Workers (UAW) will strike. If so, the losses from paused production from a 45-day strike could be as high as $40 billion among Detroit’s three iconic automakers. Some analysts believe that its current share price, down 22% over the past year, has already baked in a strike. So once it’s resolved, shares should push back higher. 

And yet, a decade under Barra suggests that might not be the case. 

Hertz Global Holdings (HTZ)

Hertz Global Holdings (NASDAQ:HTZ) stock is up more than 8% year to date (YTD). However, it’s down nearly 19% over the past year, and 32% since the car rental company relisted in November 2021 after emerging from bankruptcy.   

Hertz’s CEO since February 2022 is Stephen Scherr, a three-decade veteran of Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS). His compensation in 2022 with Hertz was just under $30 million, putting him in the fifth spot. 

Scherr’s CV includes impressive senior positions at the investment bank. He carried the titles Chief Financial Officer, Chief Operating Officer of the Investment Banking division, and Global Head of the Financing Group. He is certainly qualified to lead Hertz’s transformation. However, except for a stint between 2016 and 2018 as CEO of GS Bank USA, he’d never held that particular title anywhere else. 

As the Financial Times pointed out, Scherr stood to make upwards of $250 million by 2026 if the stock price surged. According to FT, he was issued 12.5 million shares that vest based on its future share price. 

As the Automotive News/Equilar list showed, Scherr was the fifth highest paid CEO of 2022. That’s a significant salary for a company that saw its Q2 2023 adjusted net income fall by 56% to $227 million on $2.44 billion in revenue.      

DuPont de Nemours (DD)

DuPont de Nemours (NYSE:DD) CEO Edward Breen was the eighth highest paid CEO in 2022. His total compensation tipped the scales at $27.1 million, up 14% from 2021. 

Breen’s situation differs slightly from the other two CEOs above. He helped lead the company through a massive $130 billion merger in September 2017 with Dow Chemical. Breen first became a board member of DuPont in February 2015. After the sudden departure of CEO Ellen Kullman in October 2015, he stepped in as interim CEO then was named permanent CEO a month later.

Once the two companies merged, Dow shareholders got one share of DowDuPont for each Dow share. DuPont shareholders got 1.282 shares of DowDuPont for each share of DuPont. then they split the larger business into three pieces. 

The separation into three companies, Dow (NYSE:DOW), Corteeva (NYSE:CTVA), and DuPont, was completed in June 2019. While DuPont was the biggest of three businesses, its market cap has moved sideways since the separation. 

The reality is that Breen has been CEO of DuPont since the separation. Yet, its shares have done nothing while the index gained 56% over the same period. In 2022, Breen was paid highly while delivering little. 

Therefore, activist investors ought to be asking the tough question of what has he done lately. 

On the date of publication, Will Ashworth did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines

Will Ashworth has written about investments full-time since 2008. Publications where he’s appeared include InvestorPlace, The Motley Fool Canada, Investopedia, Kiplinger, and several others in both the U.S. and Canada. He particularly enjoys creating model portfolios that stand the test of time. He lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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