PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron and his far-right challenger Marine Le Pen on Friday (Apr 15) called the pay package of Franco-Italian carmaker Stellantis' CEO "shocking" with excessive executive pay now a hot topic in France's tight-run presidential election.
Just nine days ahead of a runoff that will determine who will lead the European Union's second-largest economy for the next five years, opinion polls show Macron is only slightly ahead of Le Pen in a contest that could potentially go either way.
The 2021 compensation package for Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares adds up to around €19 million (US$20.5 million), plus a stock package worth some additional €32 million and long-term compensation of about €25 million.
"We're talking about astronomical sums here ... we should put a cap on these, this could work if we act at a European level," Macron told franceinfo radio.
"People can't have purchasing power problems, difficulties and anxiety in their lives and see sums like this," Macron said, adding that otherwise "society going to blow up".
Le Pen echoed his comments.
"Of course it is shocking. It's even more shocking when it's a CEO who has put the company in difficulty and gets considerable sums," she told BFM television, suggesting one way to offset such remuneration was to develop staff shareholdings.
The company said in a statement that it does not comment on politicians' positions and said the group had gone from near bankruptcy to a leading position under Tavares' leadership.
It added that it had paid out as much to staff as to shareholders - €1.9 billion - and said that Tavares' pay was 90 per cent variable depending on company performance and lower than at rivals GM and Ford.
Just over 52 per cent of the company's shareholders voted on Wednesday against the compensation package in a consultative vote.