Q: How many companies so far have had their executive pay plans voted down by shareholders?
A: It's common for people to grumble that CEOs are paid too much. But if you're a shareholder in the company, you can at least make your displeasure known.
For the first time this year, investors in companies are able to have a "say on pay," or vote on whether or not they approve of the way CEOs are getting paid.
These votes are non-binding, and companies can completely ignore the results if they choose.
Since companies are owned by their shareholders, though, ignoring a resounding thumbs down on a CEO's pay package could be pretty uncomfortable, especially if there are active shareholders or board of directors.
A vote against a pay package is very unusual. Shareholders almost always vote in support of CEO pay packages. Companies hire consulting firms that claim they evaluate CEO pay and make sure it's in line with what rivals are paying.
Many large mutual funds, which typically own the biggest chunks of companies, often rely on third-party firms to do research and advise them on how to vote. Most of the time, these firms recommend supporting the CEO's pay packages.
However, there have been a number of cases of companies this year when shareholders have voted the executives' pay packages down. These condemnations are especially dramatic since they're so rare.
So far this year, 21 companies have seen investors vote down their executive pay packages, including:
• Ameron International (AMN)
• Beazer Homes USA, (BZH)
• Cincinnati Bell, (CBB)
• Cogent Communications, (CCOI)
• Cooper Industries, (CBE)
• Curtiss-Wright, (CW)
• Dex One, (DEXO)
• Helix Energy, (HLX)
• Hemispherx Biopharma, (HEB)
• Hewlett Packard, (HPQ)
• Intersil, (ISIL)
• Jacobs Engineering, (JEC)
• Janus Capital, (JNS)
• MDC Holdings, (MDC)
• Navigant Consulting, (NCI)
• NVR, (NVR)
• Penn Virginia, (PVA)
• Shuffle Master, (SHFL)
• Stanley Black Decker, (SWK)
• Stewart Information Services, (STC)
• Umpqua Holdings, (UMPQ)
Matt Krantz is a financial markets reporter at USA TODAY and author of Investing Online for Dummies and Fundamental Analysis for Dummies. He answers a different reader question every weekday in his Ask Matt column at money.usatoday.com. To submit a question, e-mail Matt at email@example.com. Follow Matt on Twitter at: twitter.com/mattkrantz