Supervisory Boards No Bonus, But Top Pay

Most companies in German are doing away with bonuses, but supervisory board chiefs have no need to worry about taking a pay cut. Indeed, their new fixed salaries often exceed previous compensation packages.
Picture source: DPA

Manfred Bischoff, Daimler’s supervisory board chairman, caused quite a stir at the automaker’s general meeting last month, when he anounced that the non-executive board had treated itself to another raise.

That means Mr. Bischoff will receive €535,000 ($567,000) for the current business year, compared to €449,000 in 2016. That’s a raise of €86,000, well above what many Daimler employees make in a year.

Despite some audible grumbling, a broad majority of shareholders ultimately approved the pay raise, moving Daimler further up the rankings of the best paid supervisors in Germany, where non-executive boards are responsible for hiring and firing chief executives and reviewing corporate strategy.

Best Paid Supervisory Chairs at DAX-listed Companies+Rand-01

Mr. Bischoff, however, by far is not the best paid supervisor in Germany. That title goes Deutsche Bank’s supervisory chair, Paul Achleitner, who makes €800,000 a year.

Mr. Achleitner only recently became the top dog. For years, Ferdinand Piech at Volkswagen was the highest paid supervisor in Germany, earning well over €1 million until he stepped aside in 2015.

Mr. Piech’s generous compensation was due in large part to bonuses. Volkswagen, however, has done away with premiums for top executives due to growing political pressure and the financial squeeze from the diesel emissions scandal.

Most of Germany’s top companies are moving in the same direction as VW. By the end of the year, only five of the 30 bluechip, DAX-listed companies will still pay out bonuses to top executives.

The end of bonuses, however, doesn’t mean that supervisory board chairs are taking a pay cut. Take the chemicals company BASF as an example. Supervisory board chair Jürgen Hambrecht earned €475,000 in 2016 including bonus compensation. This year, he will earn a €500,000 fixed salary.

Over the past decade, the median income of supervisory chairs at DAX-listed companies has increased from €235,000 to €359,000.

Dieter Fockenbrock is Handelsblatt's chief correspondent for the companies and markets desk, focusing on corporate governance, opinion and rail transport. To contact the author: [email protected]