One of the nation's leading labor unions is pushing Pfizer Inc. investors to lodge a protest against what it sees as lavish executive pay at the world's leading pharmaceutical firm.
The 1.6 million-member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees said this week that it is recommending votes against executive-compensation plans at both Pfizer - which has major research-and-development sites in Groton and New London - and another top drug firm, Johnson & Johnson.
The union called last year's $10 million raise for now-retired Pfizer chief executive Jeffrey B. Kindler - an amount that brought his annual compensation to $25 million - indefensible. AFSCME said Kindler presided over the company's loss of $68 billion in market value during his four and a half years at the helm.
"CEOs should not get massive rewards after shareholder value is destroyed on their watch," Gerald W. McEntee, president of AFSCME, said in a statement. "This lavish reward for failure is simply madness."
AFSCME also has questioned the pay of current Pfizer chief executive Ian Read, who saw his 2009 compensation nearly double last year to $17.4 million.
Other top Pfizer executives were handsomely compensated last year as well, including $6.5 million for chief financial officer Frank D'Amelio; $5.9 million for R&D chief Mikael Dolsten, and $4.8 million for business-unit president Geno Germano.
Last year, Pfizer shareholders approved a measure giving them an advisory vote on compensation that will allow a so-called "say on pay" at the company's annual meeting April 28. But they shot down an attempt to strip executives of their coveted stock options, a major source of compensation.
"Shareowners can use say on pay at all companies to register their disapproval of CEO pay," McEntee said. "Pay needs to be tied to performance."
Pfizer isn't the only company with local ties whose bonuses have created a stir. Last month, GateHouse Media, which owns The Bulletin in Norwich, gave out $1.4 million in bonuses - including $750,000 to executive officer Michael R. Reed - despite having lost $26.6 million last year.
GateHouse also faces mountains of debt, with a $1 billion note due to expire in 2014.
"Add GateHouse Media's top officials to those who live in the lap of luxury on the backs of their employees," said Randy Turner, a former GateHouse employee, on his media blog The Turner Report.