One of the most recent – and heated – fights over executive pay is boiling up in the world of real estate.
At issue is the compensation package offered to David Simon, chief executive at Simon Property Group Inc., a real estate investment trust based in Indianapolis. It’s a big company, holding an interest in more than 300 income-producing properties in the U.S., including malls, outlets and other shopping centers, according to its company profile at The New York Times’ website.
And David Simon earns a big paycheck, with a stock award worth some $146 million.
But there’s a catch, as The New York Times reported in November in its aptly headlined story, “A Change in Carrots, Without a Stick.” Simon more or less has to show up to work in order to win his stock incentives. There are no performance metrics. He merely has to do his job.
This does not sit well with some of the Simon Property Group’s shareholders, including the Louisiana Municipal Police Employees’ Retirement System. This pension fund is suing the real estate company for not putting the award to a shareholder vote. You can read the full story for the legal ins and outs. There are a lot of them and, thanks to some creative language in the contract, Simon Property may be perfectly in the right.
But, in this case, it’s more the principle of the thing. Simon was not asked to meet any performance targets, related to stock price or any other metrics. He was merely asked to show up for work. According to the Times’ reporting, this was to encourage him to remain with the company for the duration of his contract.
Simon was number two among the highest-paid chief executives in 2011.
Now it’d be one thing if he were doing a terrible job. Lee Enterprises CEO Mary Junck received some $655,000 in stock bonuses in 2012 even while her company was shedding jobs left and right at its newspapers and other media properties, drawing howls of protest from within the industry. But Simon Property’s stock has been on the upswing since 2008, even exceeding its price before the Great Recession.
But does that exempt him from performance metrics?