Chairman, President and CEO, Vertex Pharmaceuticals
Total 2014 Compensation: $36.64 million
What happens when a CEO's pay more than doubles in one year? If we're talking about Vertex Pharmaceuticals ($VRTX) and Jeffrey Leiden, proxy advisers tell shareholders to vote down the company's compensation plan.
Vertex was flying high a few years ago when its hepatitis C drug Incivek won FDA approval; it was a big advance at the time, because it cut the length of treatment with the standard tough-to-tolerate cocktail. But after Gilead Sciences ($GILD) rolled out its next-gen pill Sovaldi, Incivek got creamed, and the company has since pulled it off the market. Meanwhile, Vertex shifted its focus to cystic fibrosis, where its Kalydeco treatment has made some big strides, though it's still awaiting its breakout moment--the moment when and if its Kalydeco-plus-ivacaftor combo, dubbed Orkambi, wins broad FDA approval.
Leiden's 2014 pay package included a $14-million-plus bonus designed to keep him around through that breakout moment and beyond.
As the company's 2015 annual meeting approached, Institutional Shareholder Services called Leiden's compensation "excessive" and complained that the benchmarks on his performance pay weren't "rigorous" enough. Glass, Lewis & Co. took particular issue with Leiden's retention bonus. Yes, that bonus (and those Vertex awarded to his fellow execs) comes with performance requirements. But as The Boston Globe recently pointed out, as long as Vertex makes any sort of profit over the next three years, the bonuses pay out.
Shareholders did indeed vote against the company's compensation plan--55% of them, to be exact. It's just a say-on-pay vote, so it's not binding in any way. And a large majority of shareholders backed Leiden for re-election to the company's board.
The upshot? We'll take it under advisement, the company said in a securities filing on the shareholder vote. "Our board of directors plans to carefully consider the outcome of the advisory vote on the compensation program for our named executive officers and our discussions with and feedback from shareholders in making future decisions regarding our overall executive compensation program and practices," the SEC filing states.
In the meantime, here are Leiden's numbers for 2014: $1.1 million in base salary, $2.97 million in incentive pay, $19.9 million in stock awards (including that retention bonus), $12.67 million in options, and $13,000 in other compensation.
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