Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky's Compensation Package Challenged
Top shareholders claim the CEO's mishandling of the Johnsons Baby Powder Cancer crisis should affect his compensation
Friday, April 16, 2021 - Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky's compensation package is being challenged by the company's top shareholders due to his perceived mishandling of challenges to two major components of the company's business. According to Channel News Asia, "Proxy adviser Glass Lewis is recommending investors reject the nearly US$30 million pay package for Johnson & Johnson Chief Executive Alex Gorsky, arguing that the healthcare company is shielding its top executives from the legal cost of poor business decisions." Mr. Gorsky may face a vote of no-confidence at this year's meeting for his handling of the company's role in promoting the opioid crisis in America, and his lack of attention to the Johnson's talcum powder cancer lawsuits that has seen the company discontinue selling the iconic baby care product throughout North America. Johnson & Johnson set aside $4 billion in 2021, double that of the previous year, to pay legal fees including punitive damage awards to plaintiffs that allege using Johnson's Baby Powder talc caused them to develop ovarian cancer. Top shareholders think that the CEO's compensation package should reflect his poor decision-making.
Institutional investors like pension, hedge, and mutual fund managers take the voting rights feature of owning the common stock of a company very seriously. Most large fund managers will take the time to attend the annual meetings of the companies which are their largest holdings. In a bull market like the one we have had for the last decade, the performance of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is praised. The CEO will speak to the group and give his short and long-term vision for the company. This year is different for Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky. Mr. Gorsky must explain why he let the baby powder market get away from the company without much of a fight. Experts think that the CEO's decision was due to a desire to put a timer on future baby powder asbestos claims. Last year, Gorsky testified during the punitive damages phase of a Johnson's Baby Powder Mesothelioma Cancer trial and told jurors that his only interaction with talcum powder asbestos warning was to forward his emails to experts within the company. The Japan Times reported on the trial: "Johnson & Johnson Chief Executive Alex Gorsky told a jury Monday that he did not read all the internal company documents related to potential asbestos contamination in Johnsons Baby Powder." Such lack of caring may have prompted jurors to award over $375 million to four plaintiffs with mesothelioma, ten times the compensatory damages they were to receive.
Johnson & Johnson faced more negative public opinion this week with it's COVID-19 vaccine. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and several states paused the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine after reports of blood clots. CNN reports: "The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Food and Drug Administration are recommending that the United States pause the use of Johnson & Johnson's Covid-19 vaccine over six reported US cases of a "rare and severe" type of blood clot."