AFL-CIO eyes Verizon in annual Paywatch initiative

WASHINGTON: The AFL-CIO is targeting Verizon as the face of excessive executive compensation with this year's annual Executive Paywatch campaign.

WASHINGTON: The AFL-CIO is targeting Verizon as the face of excessive executive compensation with this year's annual Executive Paywatch campaign.

Paywatch has been run annually by the union for the past decade. This year's effort was unveiled on April 5. Its centerpiece is a Web site, www.paywatch.org, which features extensive data about executive pay and critical case studies of six other companies the union said are bad offenders: Apple, Caremark Rx, The Home Depot, KB Home, Pfizer, and UnitedHealth Group.

The site also has a section that allows visitors to send e-mails to their representatives and to the SEC in favor of a bill sponsored by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) that would give shareholders a vote on executive pay packages.

"What it's really about is hold[ing] CEOs and boards of directors accountable for the exorbitant pay they're receiving," said Steve Smith, AFL-CIO spokesman. "The way the system is now is rigged, in our view, to really give these CEOs huge paydays, oftentimes for not performing."

The union featured Verizon because it considers CEO Ivan Seidenberg's pay package particularly egregious, Smith said. The AP reported that Seidenberg's compensation over the past five years was $109 million.

Smith went on to cite past campaigns against the CEOs of The Home Depot and Pfizer, both now departed, as proof of their potential impact.

Last year's campaign generated 20,000 letters to the SEC in favor of increased transparency in executive pay, he added.

"We want to make sure that investors know what kinds of packages their CEOs are getting," Smith said.

Verizon rejected the criticisms. "[We're] among the most transparent companies regarding senior-executive compensation," said Alberto Canal, Verizon media relations director, in an e-mail statement. "Our CEO works without a severance agreement, [and] approximately 89% of our CEO's compensation is performance-based."

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