Took a read through the most recent proxy statement from Costco
And this committee is not some group of fellow CEO's playing the "mutual back scratch." On the board is a surgeon at Johns Hopkins; a former investment banker -- Jill Ruckelshaus, whose husband serves on the board at Solutia (Pink Sheets: SOLUQ), which just filed for bankruptcy; an investment banker; and Berkshire Hathaway
Granted, given that Sinegal received 150,000 shares in each of the last 3 years "underpaid" might be a bit much. If Costco stock appreciates just 5% per year between time of grant and 2013, he makes another $2.8 million. On a relative basis, that's small potatoes, but 5% annually isn't exactly home run ball either.
Sinegal's approach is, nonetheless, a breath of fresh air: He answers his own phone, and "grandiose" isn't in the first 50 words that come to mind when one sees Costco headquarters. As a shareholder, I adore that.
We see so much in the way of indefensible executive compensation justified by such things as market capitalization, earnings per share, peer compensation, and other rationalizations. CEO salaries certainly don't reflect supply and demand. It's refreshing to find one whose interests are so aligned with shareholders that he would pass on money that is rightfully his.
We're no socialists -- we want the best CEO's running our companies and we want them to be paid for applying their talents on our behalf. It's when the benefit of the top comes in conflict with shareholders that we get our dander up.
Jim Sinegal could triple his salary and we wouldn't likely blink -- he and his staff do that good a job allocating capital and running Costco. The fact that he doesn't take more when there's scant little to stop him from doing so says it all.
Costco is a top pick of Tom Gardner -- like Bill Mann, a big fan of sound governance -- in David and Tom Gardner's Motley Fool Stock Advisor . Bill Mann owns shares of Costco and Berkshire Hathaway.