J&J execs get pay raises, but only after bruising shareholder 'Vote No' campaign

The company logo for Johnson & Johnson is displayed to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the company's listing at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., September 17, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Roughly 57% of investor votes cast backed healthcare company Johnson & Johnson's (JNJ.N) executive pay for 2020, a low level of support for a proposal most shareholders usually rubberstamp.

The low support, not including abstentions, for the non-binding proposal comes after the Office of the Illinois State Treasurer urged other shareholders to vote "No" on the company's pay practices, namely because J&J sets aside certain litigation costs when calculating executive compensation, including from the U.S. opioid epidemic.

J&J did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

Proxy advisors Glass Lewis and Institutional Shareholder Services Inc also recommended against J&J's pay. Johnson & Johnson had said it has always excluded certain one-time costs in its compensation for top brass.

"This vote demonstrates the significant disapproval among Johnson & Johnson shareholders," said Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs in a prepared statement. "This vote sends a strong message to the company that executives should be accountable for all consequences of corporate conduct."

Other companies facing low say-on-pay support have said they would change their executive compensation structures in the future.

Drug distributor Cardinal Health Inc (CAH.N) has said it will engage with shareholders to incorporate their views in its executive compensation plan after a minority of them revolted in November against a executive pay structure similar to J&J's.

Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) in 2018 adjusted the compensation of then-CEO Bob Iger after 52% of shareholders rejected his pay, Reuters has reported.

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