Think Facebook (FB) executives are overpaid? Join the club.
A close review of Facebook's 2013 proxy voting results suggests that most average outside shareholders are unhappy with Facebook's executive compensation system.
Unfortunately, there's nothing they can do about it.
Investors: You've Been Out-Classed
Facebook's current capital structure essentially gives insiders total control over matters brought to shareholders for a vote., because Facebook has two classes of stock -- a dual-class voting structure.
People like you and me are only able to purchase Class A shares, which only get one vote each on matters that are up for a shareholder vote. Class B shares, on the other hand, get 10 votes each -- and are only available to company insiders like CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his top executives.
As a result, average outside shareholders only controlled about 20.7 percent of the votes as of April 16 of this year. This means Facebook insiders will win out over average shareholders in the event of disagreement. Every single time.
This Year's "Say-on-Pay" Results
According to an 8-K filed on Thursday, the voting results on Facebook's executive compensation were as follows:
Broker non-votes: 653,253,525
However, let's assume that all B shares followed management's recommendation to vote for this policy (which they probably did, given that most B shares are owned by management). Once we subtract those votes from the "for" tally, we're left with 337,193,792 votes.
This suggests that average outside shareholder support for Facebook's executive compensation policy is only around 24 percent.
Outsized Compensation for Poor Stock Performance
Interestingly, shareholders have no reason to gripe about Zuckerberg's payday -- for now.
For 2013, his salary is just $1 per year, and he's not participating in this year's bonus plan. Also, he's no longer receiving equity-based compensation, as the compensation committee decided "his existing equity ownership position sufficiently aligns his interests with those of [Facebook's] stockholders."
However, shareholders may still be reeling at the fact that Zuckerberg scored a $2.3 billion payday last year after he exercised 60 million options just before the stock's post-IPO decline -- a decline from which the stock still hasn't recovered.
Zuckerberg's pay package isn't the only one that is under the microscope. Let's take a look at the estimated worth of the pay packages earned by Facebook's top executives in 2012:
David Ebersman (Chief Financial Officer): $17,543,861
David B. Fischer (Vice President of Business and Marketing Partnerships): $12,013,232
Mike Schroepfer (Chief Technical Officer and Vice President of Engineering): $20,725,928
Now, keep in mind that CEOs of some of America's largest companies earned an estimated average of about $13 million in 2012. Despite Facebook's sorry performance over the past year, most of its top brass are beating that CEO average.
Other Shareholder Caste Systems
Facebook isn't the only company with a multi-class voting structure. In fact, this "shareholder caste system" appears to be particularly popular among tech companies. For example, Groupon (GRPN), LinkedIn (LNKD), and Zynga (ZNGA) also have dual-class voting structures. Google (GOOG) currently has a dual-class voting structure, and even plans to create a tri-class voting structure by introducing non-voting Class C shares in the future.
As a result, if people like you and me invest in these companies, we can expect management preferences to win the day, every time, no matter what we think.
Warning to Investors
As you decide where to invest your money, it can be useful to consider how the capital structure of a business affects the say that average shareholders have in a business' future. If you trust the company's management to always do what's best for shareholders, you may appreciate a voting structure that prevents shareholders from screwing things up.
On the other hand, if you suspect management may sometimes sacrifice average shareholder interests in favor of a self-interested agenda, you may want to avoid a voting structure that prevents you from holding them accountable.
Motley Fool Contributor M. Joy Hayes, Ph.D., (@JoyofEthics) is the Principal at ethics consulting firm Courageous Ethics. She has no positions in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn. Try any of our newsletter services free for 30 days.
Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg
Think Facebook Execs Are Overpaid? Tough Noogies
Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg met in line for the bathroom at a Harvard party in 2003. Zuckerberg's fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi, was hosting a party and Chan, a sophomore from the Boston area, was there.
“He was this nerdy guy who was just a little bit out there,” Chan told The New Yorker. “I remember he had these beer glasses that said ‘pound include beer dot H.’ It’s a tag for C++. It’s like college humor but with a nerdy, computer-science appeal.”
Chan was one of the first people to join Facebook, on February 5, 2004.
Perhaps the most telling sign of their long relationship is that Chan knew Zuckerberg before hoodies were his clothing of choice. "There is the black fleece period, the red puma period, the short lived white coat period and the really soft green thing period," she commented in 2006.
Chan loves kids. She worked at FASE and at The Harker School teaching 4th and 5th grade. "These little ones inspired me," she says.
In 2007 Chan graduated from Harvard. Zuckerberg was there to celebrate. Chan followed him to California. She became a med student at UCSF and rented an apartment near Golden Gate Park. Zuckerberg would visit her most weekends.
"They walk in the park, go rowing (he insists that they go in separate boats and race), play bocce or the board game the Settlers of Catan. Sundays are reserved for Asian cuisine," The New Yorker writes of the couple.
Because Zuckerberg is so busy with Facebook, Chan set some strict ground rules for their relationship. Chan requires a minimum of 100 minutes of alone time per week, not at Facebook. She also requires one date per week, TechCrunch reports.
The couple has traveled the world together. They typically spend two weeks in December abroad and they've taken trips to China to see her family. Zuckerberg even started learning Chinese.
Chan was there through all the ups and downs. Here she helped Zuckerberg take photos of himself for a BusinessWeek story.
And Chan was there when Zuckerberg turned down multiple buyout offers, including a $1 billion offer from Yahoo in 2006. Chan told The New Yorker she thought that was Zuckerberg's most stressful time period. "I remember we had a huge conversation over the Yahoo! deal. We try to stick pretty close to what our goals are and what we believe and what we enjoy doing in life—just simple things,” she says.
In September 2010 Chan moved in with Zuckerberg. He announced the news on Facebook: "Priscilla Chan is moving in this weekend. Now we have 2x everything, so if you need any household appliances, dishes, glasses, etc please come by and take them before we give them away.”
One month later they offered hoards of candy to trick or treaters.
In March 2011, Chan and Zuckerberg picked up this pooch, Beast.
That same month, the couple finally acknowledged they were in a relationship on Facebook.
Zuckerberg and Chan tied the knot, just days after Chan graduated from med school and Zuckerberg took his company public.