Latest research by the High Pay Centre shows the median FTSE 100 CEO’s pay packet increased by 16% in 2022. Violation Tracker UK shows seven of the top ten CEO’s have seen their firms sanctioned by regulators during their tenure.
The CEO of weapons manufacturer BAE Systems, Charles Woodburn earnt £10.69 million last year. The company also ranked highest amongst the FTSE 100 for executive pay with three executives paid a combined total of over £24 million.
But since Woodburn became CEO in July 2017 the company has been repeatedly served notices by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for failures to take appropriate measures to prevent fires and explosions. In 2021 the HSE warned BAE systems of a systemic failure to maintain buildings housing explosives, stating that one building had then been identified twice as failing to meet standards. Last year HSE found safety failings in relation to the firm’s research and development activities.
Health and safety notices are often brushed off as excessive ‘red tape’, but failures in BAE Systems safety practices led to the death of one of their workers in 2008, for which the company paid almost £350,000 in 2013. The same year they were charged and ordered to pay costs of £180,000 for a serious incident at the Ridsdale firing range.
The CEO of building materials firm CRH plc, Albert Manifold, received £10.38m in pay in 2022. Under his tenure CRH plc have had multiple run-ins with environment and health and safety regulators.
In his first year the firm was fined £15,000 by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and handed a notice by England’s Environment Agency (EA). In 2020 they faced enforcement action from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency for keeping waste without a licence and the following year handed a caution by the EA.
The firm and its subsidiaries have also faced enforcement action for poor health and safety practices.
In 2017 their subsidiary Tarmac Marine Ltd was fined £120,000 and paid costs of over £10,000 by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency for not only failing to act when asbestos was reported on one of their vessels in 2014, but subsequently ordering crew members to paint over the asbestos in order to hide it from authorities in 2016, which the employees refused to do.
Alongside multiple notices issued for failures to ensure the safety of their workers by the HSE, three workers have died in their employment, including one during the period that the current CEO has been in role.
Ben van Beurden has been CEO of Shell plc since 2014 and last year took home £9.7m. But like BAE systems and CRH plc, Shell has a poor record when it comes to the health and safety of their employees.
Under Ben van Beurden’s tenure the company has received 16 Health and Safety notices including a £60,000 fine after a successful prosecution by the HSE.
Perhaps unsurprisingly the firm has shown poor compliance with climate regulations, paying a £40,000 fine imposed by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency for failures to comply with the conditions of their greenhouse gas emissions permit in 2018 and a £50,000 fine last year to the North Sea Transition Authority for breaching their production licence.
It appears that being caught over-charging consumers by Ofgem does not affect renumeration either. In 2019, 2021 and 2022 Shell paid penalties of over £2 million for over-charging their customers.
Centrica’s boss Chris O’Shea may not be in amongst the top ten highest paid CEOs, but last year he saw a bumper increase in his pay packet which rose from £880,000 to £4.4million.
Under his tenure, Centrica has continued to break consumer-protection legislation, having been fined around the same between 2020 and 2021 by Ofgem as the CEO took home last year.
Centrica also has a poor record on health and safety. In 2020, an employee suffered burns on 27% of their body for which Centrica paid a fine of £6,000.
Manufacturing weapons and extracting fossil fuels are industries that are harmful to people, not only in other countries where these weapons are used, and countries in the global south who are facing the consequences of global warming, but also here in the UK where workers and customers are exploited and, in some cases, put at risk of serious injury.
It appears that noncompliance with regulations, even when these directly link to worker and customer wellbeing, is not considered enough of a cause for a reduction in renumeration, in fact, further investigation may even uncover that it pays to breach.
If you are a shareholder with a vote on executive pay, or an employee with unanswered questions about your company’s compliance record, you can search for them on Violation Tracker UK. Follow us on Twitter at VT__UK (note the two underscores).