ExxonMobil paid its chief executive $36mn last year, a 52 per cent increase from 2021 and more than double his 2020 pay after Russia’s war with Ukraine led to record profits for oil companies and a windfall for their top executives.
The US oil major awarded Darren Woods $25mn in stock last year, up from $13.5mn in 2021, it said a regulatory filing on Thursday. He was also awarded a $6.4mn cash bonus, “in line with record earnings performance,” the filing said.
Woods’ awards cap a trend of outsized paydays for industry executives following last year’s oil price surge. Ben van Beurden, Shell’s former chief executive, received a total of £9.7mn in 2022, up 53 per cent from 2021, as the oil group delivered a record $40bn in profits.
BP chief executive Bernard Looney’s pay more than doubled to £10mn last year after the UK-listed energy group delivered a record $28bn in profits. Looney’s pay could have been higher but BP said its board had used discretion to reduce his awards because of four fatalities at BP facilities last year.
The sharp rise in energy chief executives’ pay comes after oil and natural gas prices surged in 2022 following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which fuelled the highest inflation rates western countries had seen in decades, and lifted European energy prices to levels that dragged on growth.
The high prices also propelled Big Oil to record profits. Exxon led the industry’s earnings bonanza with a $55.7bn profit in 2022 and the world’s five-largest western firms — Exxon, Chevron, Shell, BP and TotalEnergies — raked in nearly $200bn in combined profits.
As part of new pay disclosures mandated by the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Exxon said Woods’ “actually paid” compensation last year was $89.7mn, reflecting the jump in Exxon’s share price. The company’s total shareholder return, which includes dividends, soared 86 per cent in 2022, it noted.
Equity awards usually comprise the bulk of US executives’ pay and almost 90 per cent of Woods’ “actually paid” compensation stemmed from unvested stock. The company’s shares ended 2022 at $110.30 up from $61.19 at the end of 2021, Exxon said.
Rival oil major Chevron said on Wednesday that the pay for its chief executive, Michael Wirth, increased 4 per cent to $23.6mn in 2022. His “actually paid” compensation was $86.7mn, reflecting stock price gains.
Exxon did not immediately respond to requests for comment.