Vanguard vote key to Elon Musk’s Tesla pay package ratification

MINISTÉRIO DAS COMUNICAÇÕES, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Vanguard, Tesla’s second-largest shareholder behind CEO Elon Musk, detailed its decision to ratify his $56 billion pay package in a pamphlet released on Friday by the investment advisor.

At Thursday’s Annual Shareholder Meeting, Musk’s ratification request was passed after it needed to be voted on once again following a void by a Delaware Chancery Court Judge earlier this year.

Large shareholders and investment firms that held a sizable stake in the automaker took center stage as the ratification was one of the biggest issues Tesla faced in recent memory. The implications were grand, as a denial could have meant the end of Musk’s reign at Tesla, where he has built the company from a little-known disruptor to the world’s most valuable automaker in the course of less than two decades.

While several firms and investment groups said they would not support Musk’s pay package, Vanguard said on Friday that it voted for the ratification. After an evaluation process, which included meeting with executives and board members, Vanguard ultimately decided to support Musk’s ratification:

“In our 2024 analysis of the performance award, which would grant Tesla’s CEO approximately 300 million options (adjusted for stock splits since the initial grant date) given the achievement of a series of performance conditions, we noted that the company’s performance and associated shareholder returns since 2018 have significantly outperformed the market and have been positive outliers.”

It also noted the total shareholder return was in the 98th percentile of all Russell 3000 companies from 2018 to 2023. “There are few companies that have created as much absolute market value appreciation as Tesla.”

Additionally, board members and executives at Tesla were fully aware of Musk’s influence and fully supported his ratification, which they detailed to Vanguard:

“To further inform the funds’ voting decisions, we met with Tesla executives and board members. During our engagement, board members reinforced their conviction regarding the importance of retaining the CEO and highlighted that the plan’s five-year post-exercise holding requirement maintains the alignment of the CEO’s economic interests with the company’s shareholder base.”

Any concerns or reservations Vanguard had going into the meeting were essentially obliterated after the analysis and meetings with executives. The firm said that it voted for the ratification of Musk’s pay package on Thursday:

“Our analysis, consistent with our concerns in 2018, found that the current value of this grant is a substantial outlier relative to CEO compensation levels of any potential peer group. That said, the unique circumstance of evaluating the plan retroactively eliminated our concerns that significant pay could be earned without company outperformance relative to the market or peers. Given the strong alignment of executive pay with shareholder returns since 2018 and the benefits the board asserted related to the motivational value for the CEO in preserving the original deal (which was approved by a majority of shareholders in 2018), the Vanguard-advised funds voted for the ratification of the CEO’s 2018 option award at the 2024 annual meeting.”

Vanguard’s 232 million shares of Tesla that it owns equate to roughly 7 percent of the automaker. The firm manages roughly $9 trillion in total assets.

You can read Vanguard’s full report on the Tesla Shareholder Meeting here.

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Vanguard vote key to Elon Musk’s Tesla pay package ratification
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