Warren Buffett on Saturday said he opposes requiring companies to start listing their top earners in proxy statements, rather than top executives, saying it can actually hurt investors by driving salaries higher.
Buffett was speaking at the annual meeting of Berkshire Hathaway Inc , responding to a shareholder question about why Berkshire does not report the pay of chief executives of some of its largest or better known units, including Geico or the BNSF railway.
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Buffett's own salary, $100,000, is reported in Berkshire's proxy.
Berkshire discloses compensation for only three top officers: Buffett, Vice Chairman Charlie Munger, and Chief Financial Officer Marc Hamburg.
"It is only human to look at a whole bunch of proxy statements and say, I'm worth a lot more than that guy," Buffett said. "American shareholders are paying a significant price by getting a look at all those proxy statements and seeing how much the top five earners are getting ... No CEO comes away looking at proxy statements and say, I should get paid a lot less."
Buffett used as an example - Comcast Corp , the cable TV operator which also owns NBC Universal.
"Shareholders of Comcast would be hurt, actually, if you published the five highest salaries paid at the subsidiaries, "perhaps like the anchor of a nightly news program, he said. "(It) might have a negative effect on negotiating."
One thing that is almost certain: whoever succeeds Buffett, 83, as Berkshire's chief executive will make much more than $100,000 a year.
"They're certainly entitled to be paid a lot," Buffett said. "I'm going to write about that very question next year in the annual report."
(Reporting By Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Bernard Orr)