Oil Exec Pay 'Just Plain Stealing'

Pinkston
CBS
Gasoline prices are up 75 cents over the past year to a national average of nearly $3 a gallon. Middle East jitters are behind much of the pain at the pump.

CBS News correspondent Randall Pinkston reports that skyrocketing salaries for oil company executives are a pain to some outraged stockholders as well.

Tucked away in a small town in northern California, hardware store owner Emil Rossi is on a mission.

"I'm angry because they can do it. I'm angry at the system," he told Pinkston.

Rossi, who is 81, owns thousands of shares of stock and appreciates a good return. What he doesn't like and wants to stop are the fat paychecks many corporate CEO's are receiving.

"We're getting used to hearing these guys getting $50 million — it's a lot of money. Maybe ball players get it but they can hit 300," he says.

Rossi is focusing his shareholder revolt on oil companies which — thanks to high gas prices — are shelling out grand-slam salaries. Take a look at what one of the top CEOs of big oil is making. ExxonMobile's recently retired Lee Raymond walked away with over $350 million in salary and retirement benefits.

"If he was John Rockefeller, who built it I could understand, but he took over a first class company — and it's still a first class company," says Rossi.

But defenders of executive pay say the system is working just fine.

"These are very well managed companies that have turned in good returns to their shareholders," says John Felmy of the American Petroleum Institute.

In fact, most corporate CEOs would argue that when a firm turns in billions in profits, like ExxonMobil, eight or nine-figure pay packages for the CEO are perfectly reasonable — and they deserve the compensation for the risk they're taking.

"Investing a billion dollars in a platform to drill in two miles of water off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico is a real challenging decision. The executives who do this are taking enormous risks," says Felmy

But critics say a CEOs salary should not be pegged to the skyrocketing price of oil.

"If we are paving or rewarding executives for things they can't control, we are really wasting our money," says John Wilson of Christian Brothers Investment Services.

Back in California, Emil Rossi has launched a stockholder resolution to limit executive pay, which will be brought up at next month's ExxonMobile annual meeting.

"As far as I am concerned, it's just plain stealing from shareholders," says Rossi.

And he's hoping to harness that shareholder anger to change things at the top.