Viatris shareholders rail against execs' hefty pay packages

At Viatris’ first annual meeting since its 2020 debut, shareholders balked at the hefty pay packages handed out to its top executives that same year.

In a nonbinding vote to approve the 2020 compensation of Viatris’ top brass, about 655 million votes came in against the pay packages. That compared with about 159 million votes in favor.

At the company’s annual meeting Dec. 10, Viatris also asked shareholders to vote on their preferred frequency of so-called "say-on-pay" votes. The votes are nonbinding but indicate whether a company's investors support its executive pay policies.

Almost all of Viatris' investors support a yearly vote. Nearly 800 million voters favor annual votes, compared with 1.7 million votes for every other year and and 13.4 million votes for every three years. Say-on-pay votes must be held at least once every three years.

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Since 2011, the Securities and Exchange Commission has required (PDF) public companies let shareholders give an advisory vote on the pay of the company’s highest-compensated executives. In that time, Mylan shareholders have voted against top execs’ pay packages twice, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which first reported on the latest bout of shareholder dissent.

Viatris was born in late 2020 through the combination of Mylan and Pfizer’s Upjohn unit.

In an emailed statement, a Viatris spokesperson said the “2020 compensation program was an anomaly year as a result of our sizable transaction with Pfizer’s Upjohn, reflecting three distinct programs from Mylan, Upjohn and Viatris that came together all at one time.”

Meanwhile, Viatris says it has taken steps to appease investors moving forward.

“The Viatris Compensation Committee and Board already addressed shareholder concerns by implementing a new, comprehensive performance-based shareholder-aligned compensation program for 2021 consistent with our stated company priorities,” the Viatris spokesperson said. “This new program will be reflected in the summary compensation table in next year’s proxy.”

RELATED: With Mylan-Upjohn merger wrapped, Viatris chairman Coury collects $29M in 2020 pay

Viatris' executive chairman Robert Coury collected the largest 2020 compensation package at about $29.05 million, more than five times the total compensation for Viatris’ new CEO Michael Goettler, who scored $5.47 million, according to the company’s 2021 proxy filing. President Rajiv Malik and President of Developed Markets Anthony Mauro had the second and third handsomest rewards at $14.1 million and $6.7 million, respectively. Chief Financial Officer Sanjeev Nerula's pay package came in at $2.92 million.

In its 2021 proxy, Viatris laid out total “target” compensation for the same quintet of executives, comprising base salary, annual and long-term incentives. Coury’s targeted pay package for 2021 is pegged at $15.3 million, followed by Goettler’s and President Rajiv Malik’s at $12.35 million and $9.9 million, respectively.