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SPD proposal: Top managers oppose limiting their salaries

The board of directors of several DAX companies are resisting the SPD's plans to legally cap the amount of manager salaries. "The specification of a maximum quota would be a clear encroachment on the owner's rights", Nikolaus von Bomhard, CEO of Munich Re, warns in the ZEIT. Personally, he feels that his remuneration is appropriate, but in an international comparison the salaries of the executive board in his company are "very moderate". According to Munich Re, Von Bomhard received remuneration of 4.5 million euros in 2015.

In January the SPD proposed a statutory maximum quota between the remuneration of CEOs and the average employee salary in their companies.

Bayer CEO Werner Baumann considers such a quota to be unworldly. "Employment structures and average incomes differ considerably from industry to industry, and an inevitably generalized maximum quota for all companies is counterproductive," he says.

Average salary at five million euros

The heads of other DAX companies are also defending the current compensation model. ZEIT asked all 30 of them to give their opinion. "With its social market economy, Germany has an excellent economic model and is in an excellent position in an international comparison," says adidas CEO Kasper Rorstedt, for example, referring to the good employment situation and rising real incomes. "That shows that German companies and their leaders are for the most part doing a good job and running their companies for the good of society."

The Union is also critical of the SPD's proposal. "Some managers have completely lost touch with the reality and the reality of their employees' lives. They want old-age insurance in this country like German civil servants and be paid like in the USA," said Jens Spahn, State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Finance, in ZEIT. For him, however, the topic is rather "a question of decency. You don't always have to make laws".

In 2015, the average salaries of CEOs in Germany were 5.1 million euros, according to the German Association for Securities Holdings (DSW). In France the average was slightly lower at 4.7 million euros, in Switzerland it was slightly higher at 6.8 million euros. Significantly more was paid in the USA with the equivalent of 16.4 million euros.

According to the study, Daimler boss Dieter Zetsche was the top earner among the managers of the 30 DAX companies in the 2015 financial year. He got 8.5 million euros. In contrast to other years, no CEO received a double-digit million amount in 2015.

SPD approved high executive salaries at VW

For the SPD, the issue of executive board salaries is delicate, as the former VW board member Christine Hohmann-Dennhardt, a former SPD politician, is reportedly receiving a severance payment of more than twelve million euros.

In the past, the VW managers were absolute top earners. The former CEO Martin Winterkorn received 17.5 million euros at peak times. The Prime Minister of Lower Saxony traditionally sits on the Wolfsburg company's supervisory board, and SPD politician Stephan Weil since 2013. The Volkswagen Supervisory Board is currently considering capping manager salaries in the Group at a maximum of 10 million euros per year.