The $65 Million Perk for CEOs: Personal Use of the Corporate Jet Has Soared
Kanebridge News
    HOUSE MEDIAN ASKING PRICES AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $1,587,785 (-9.64%)       Melbourne $968,477 (-1.28%)       Brisbane $894,769 (-1.51%)       Adelaide $810,780 (-6.94%)       Perth $764,276 (-4.92%)       Hobart $750,134 (+1.16%)       Darwin $645,801 (-3.38%)       Canberra $1,017,220 (+3.56%)       National $1,010,264 (-5.75%)                UNIT MEDIAN ASKING PRICES AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $725,381 (-1.27%)       Melbourne $488,555 (-0.24%)       Brisbane $499,581 (-5.39%)       Adelaide $411,364 (-4.41%)       Perth $414,273 (-2.57%)       Hobart $498,192 (-6.11%)       Darwin $351,130 (-4.84%)       Canberra $480,942 (-4.46%)       National $506,040 (-3.24%)                HOUSES FOR SALE AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 10,047 (+6,578)       Melbourne 14,543 (+5,785)       Brisbane 8,228 (+1,243)       Adelaide 2,741 (+600)       Perth 6,788 (+1,322)       Hobart 1,219 (+48)       Darwin 269 (+17)       Canberra 1,013 (+155)       National 44,848 (+15,748)                UNITS FOR SALE AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 8,226 (+4,905)       Melbourne 7,846 (+2,295)       Brisbane 1,759 (+304)       Adelaide 499 (+101)       Perth 1,899 (+331)       Hobart 186 (-9)       Darwin 388 (+26)       Canberra 854 (+60)       National 21,657 (+8,013)                HOUSE MEDIAN ASKING RENTS AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $780 ($0)       Melbourne $590 ($0)       Brisbane $620 ($0)       Adelaide $600 ($0)       Perth $650 ($0)       Hobart $550 (-$10)       Darwin $680 ($0)       Canberra $690 ($0)       National $652 (-$1)                UNIT MEDIAN ASKING RENTS AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $725 (-$5)       Melbourne $580 ($0)       Brisbane $620 (-$10)       Adelaide $450 (-$20)       Perth $600 (+$15)       Hobart $470 (-$10)       Darwin $570 ($0)       Canberra $570 ($0)       National $584 (-$3)                HOUSES FOR RENT AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 5,614 (+7)       Melbourne 5,631 (-24)       Brisbane 4,055 (-125)       Adelaide 1,248 (+4)       Perth 1,830 (+7)       Hobart 380 (+12)       Darwin 153 (-19)       Canberra 664 (-12)       National 19,575 (-150)                UNITS FOR RENT AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 7,725 (-368)       Melbourne 5,038 (-276)       Brisbane 2,044 (-65)       Adelaide 394 (+11)       Perth 594 (-34)       Hobart 139 (+1)       Darwin 285 (-5)       Canberra 590 (-16)       National 16,809 (-752)                HOUSE ANNUAL GROSS YIELDS AND TREND       Sydney 2.55% (↑)      Melbourne 3.17% (↑)      Brisbane 3.60% (↑)      Adelaide 3.85% (↑)      Perth 4.42% (↑)        Hobart 3.81% (↓)     Darwin 5.48% (↑)        Canberra 3.53% (↓)     National 3.36% (↑)             UNIT ANNUAL GROSS YIELDS AND TREND       Sydney 5.20% (↑)      Melbourne 6.17% (↑)      Brisbane 6.45% (↑)      Adelaide 5.69% (↑)      Perth 7.53% (↑)      Hobart 4.91% (↑)      Darwin 8.44% (↑)      Canberra 6.16% (↑)      National 6.01% (↑)             HOUSE RENTAL VACANCY RATES AND TREND       Sydney 0.7% (↑)      Melbourne 0.8% (↑)      Brisbane 0.4% (↑)      Adelaide 0.4% (↑)      Perth 1.2% (↑)      Hobart 0.6% (↑)      Darwin 1.1% (↑)      Canberra 0.7% (↑)      National 0.7% (↑)             UNIT RENTAL VACANCY RATES AND TREND       Sydney 0.9% (↑)      Melbourne 1.4% (↑)      Brisbane 0.7% (↑)      Adelaide 0.3% (↑)      Perth 0.4% (↑)      Hobart 1.5% (↑)      Darwin 0.8% (↑)      Canberra 1.3% (↑)        National 0.9% (↓)            AVERAGE DAYS TO SELL HOUSES AND TREND         Sydney 36.6 (↓)       Melbourne 40.8 (↓)       Brisbane 36.8 (↓)       Adelaide 31.2 (↓)       Perth 41.1 (↓)       Hobart 41.6 (↓)       Darwin 49.2 (↓)       Canberra 39.9 (↓)       National 39.7 (↓)            AVERAGE DAYS TO SELL UNITS AND TREND         Sydney 36.2 (↓)       Melbourne 39.2 (↓)       Brisbane 33.8 (↓)       Adelaide 30.0 (↓)     Perth 43.3 (↑)      Hobart 43.8 (↑)        Darwin 33.7 (↓)       Canberra 45.3 (↓)       National 38.2 (↓)           
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The $65 Million Perk for CEOs: Personal Use of the Corporate Jet Has Soared

Company spending on the benefit has climbed 50% since before the pandemic

By THEO FRANCIS
Wed, Jan 17, 2024 8:39amGrey Clock 5 min

One of the flashiest executive perks has roared back since the onset of the pandemic: free personal travel on the company jet.

Companies in the S&P 500 spent $65 million for executives to use corporate jets for personal travel in 2022, up about 50% from prepandemic levelsthree years earlier, a Wall Street Journal analysis found. Early signs suggest the trend continued last year.

Overall, the number of big companies providing the perk rose about 14% since 2019, to 216 in 2022, figures from executive-data firmEquilar show. The number of executives receiving free flights grew nearly 25%, to 427.

Most companies report executive pay and perks in the spring.

Meta Platforms spent $6.6 million in 2022 on personal flights for Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg and his then-lieutenant, Sheryl Sandberg—up about 55% from 2019, the Journal found. Casino company Las Vegas Sands spent $3.2 million on flights for four executives, more than double its annual expense in any year since 2015. Exelon, which owns Chicago’s Commonwealth Edison utility, more than tripled its spending on the perk since 2019.

Company jets have long symbolised corporate success and, to critics, excess. Companies typically say flying corporate is safer, healthier and more efficient. Some companies—including Cardinal Health, Raymond James Financial and Hormel Foods—added or expanded the perk in 2020 or 2021, citing pandemic health and safety concerns. Most spending growth came at companies already paying for personal flights in 2019.

Palo Alto Networks began subsidising personal flights for CEO Nikesh Arora in the year ended July 2022, spending about $650,000. That total rose to $1.8 million in its most recent fiscal year, plus a further $286,000 to cover his tax bill for the perk, the cybersecurity company said in an October securities filing.

The company said in filings that its board requires Arora to fly corporate in response to a security consultant’s report. “There was a bona fide, business-related security concern for Mr. Arora and credible threat actors existed with both the willingness and resources necessary for conducting an attack on Mr. Arora,” it said.

Companies report spending on flights they can’t classify as business-related, including trips to board meetings for other companies or commuting from distant residences. Some give executives a fixed personal-flight allowance in hours or dollars, and require reimbursement beyond that.

The sums have little financial impact on most giant corporations, even when annual flight bills exceed a million dollars. Critics say the free flights indicate directors too eager to please top executives.

“The vast majority of S&P 500 companies do not offer this perk,” said Rosanna Landis Weaver, an executive-pay analyst at As You Sow, a nonprofit shareholder-advocacy group that has produced annual lists of CEOs it considers overpaid.

The Journal’s analysis reflects what companies disclose in securities filings, typically in footnotes to annual proxy statements. Federal rules generally require companies to itemize the perk for each top executive if it costs the company $25,000 or more in a year.

PepsiCo spent $776,000 on personal flights for five executives in 2022, double what it paid for the perk in 2019. Two-thirds of the spending subsidized flights by CEO Ramon Laguarta, who is required to use company aircraft for personal flights for safety and efficiency reasons. In an interview last spring, Laguarta said he sometimes ended business trips to Europe by flying to visit his mother in his native Barcelona. She died later in the year, in her 90s.

A PepsiCo spokesman said the company jet allows executives to reach remote facilities.

Personal jet use can draw investor and regulatory scrutiny. It contributed to the ouster of Credit Suisse’s chairman in 2022.

In June, tool maker Stanley Black & Decker settled Securities and Exchange Commission charges that it failed to disclose $1.3 million in perks for four executives and a director, mostly their use of company aircraft, from 2017 through 2020. In 2020, Hilton Worldwide Holdings settled SEC charges that it didn’t disclose $1.7 million in perks over four years, in part by underreporting costs for CEO Christopher Nassetta’s personal flights by 87%in two of those years. Hilton paid a $600,000 penalty.

Both companies settled without admitting or denying wrongdoing.

Stanley Black & Decker said it raised the errors with the SEC and settled without a fine. In 2022, Stanley Black & Decker reported spending nearly $143,500 on personal flights for former CEO James Loree and his successor, Donald Allan Jr., primarily to fly to outside board meetings or from second homes to work.

Hilton cited higher fuel prices in reporting about $500,000 in flights for Nassetta in 2022.

Spending on executives’ personal travel outpaced overall growth in business-jet traffic. Takeoffs and landings are up by about 19% since 2019, after dropping sharply in 2020, Federal Aviation Administration data show. Corporate spending on the perk rose 52%, the Journal found.

Higher fuel costs in 2022 contributed to the increase in spending, and there is little indication of a slowdown last year. Of the 15 S&P 500 companies that have reported spending on the perk in fiscal years ended in the second half of 2023, 10 said they increased spending, including three that didn’t report the perk a year earlier, securities filings show.

Sixteen companies that started paying for personal flights during the pandemic have since stopped. An additional 31 continued spending into 2022, with a median of $124,000. Accenture, Palo Alto Networks and concert promoter Live Nation Entertainment reported spending more than $500,000 apiece.

In 2020, Julie Sweet’s first full year as CEO, Accenture capped annual spending for her personal flights at $200,000, then doubled it the next year. Accenture raised the cap to $600,000 in its year that ended Aug. 31, when it spent about $575,000 on Sweet’s personal flights, the company said in a December securities filing.

In its filings, Accenture said it encourages Sweet to use company aircraft for personal travel, citing a security study the company commissioned.

Companies that provided the perk already in 2019 accounted for most of the recent growth in spending, the Journal found.

Meta, for example, spent nearly $11 million on Zuckerberg and Sandberg’s personal flights from 2015 through 2019, and a further $13.3 million over the next three years. Zuckerberg’s company-paid travel included trips on an aircraft he owns, which Meta charters for business, paying $523,000 in 2022. The Facebook owner stopped paying for Sandberg’s personal flights when she stepped down as a company employee in September 2022. She remains on Meta’s board.

Spokesmen for Meta and Sandberg declined to comment beyond Meta’s securities disclosures.

CEOs incurred most of the personal flight spending, making up half the executives receiving the perk in 2022 and two-thirds of the overall cost, Equilar’s data show.

At some companies, other executives are making up a bigger share of the cost. Four Norfolk Southern executive vice presidents accounted for just over half its roughly $370,000 in spending on personal flights in 2022, securities filings show. CEO Alan Shaw accounted for the rest. By contrast, the railroad reported subsidising flights only for then-CEO James Squires in the five years through 2020.

Shaw may take as many as 60 hours of personal flights on company aircraft before reimbursing Norfolk Southern, the company said in its filings. Personal use of company aircraft by executives other than the CEO was infrequent, it added. Norfolk Southern didn’t respond to requests for comment.

—Jennifer Maloney contributed to this article.



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Amid Geopolitical Concerns, Major Philanthropy Continues to Forge Ahead…Creatively
By Geoff Nudelman
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Even amid two international conflicts and an upcoming U.S. presidential election, some philanthropic leaders are optimistic about the direction of overall giving through 2024.

Penta spoke with heads of several non-profits and leading philanthropists to gauge whether charitable giving will continue its reported slump from 2023 or rebound alongside renewed interest in various political and economic issues.

“Contrary to what some might expect, philanthropy has had resilience in these times,” says Stacy Huston, executive director of Sixdegrees.org, a youth empowerment non-profit based in Virginia founded by actor Kevin Bacon in 2007.

Huston’s view echoes recent data from the biennial Bank of America Study of Philanthropy published last year, which found that while affluent giving is largely down, the value of the average philanthropic gift is up 19%, surpassing pre-pandemic levels.

The notion of what these gifts look like is changing, and is partially responsible for the growth. Philanthropy can be executed through more avenues than ever, whether through celebrity association, tech titans stewarding large endowments, or  athletes using their platforms to advocate for and create meaningful change.

“The industry and movement is creating new models, and you want to get it right,” says Scott Curran, CEO of Chicago-based Beyond Advisers. “No one should take their foot off the gas pedal.”

Curran spent a number of years with the Clinton Foundation in its infancy before leaving in 2016 to open his own consultancy, which focuses on philanthropy strategy at the highest levels. Curran and his team work with celebrities, athletes, multi-generational family foundations, and other affluent givers who need guidance in directing their philanthropic efforts. It’s a growing area of interest: Over half of affluent households with a net worth between US$5 million and US$20 million have, or are planning to establish, “some kind of giving vehicle” within the next three years, according to the Bank of America report.

Corporate philanthropy, rather than individual giving, is the cornerstone of Marcus Selig’s work as chief conservation officer at the National Forest Foundation, a Congressionally chartered non-profit based in Montana responsible for protecting millions of acres of public lands.

“Our outlook is business as usual,” he says, advising that giving may slow down, but not enough for the foundation to change course.

Factors such as political polarisation in the U.S. and the wars in Eastern Europe and the Middle East are pushing nonprofits to consider their niche, and how they might work with other groups, both on the corporate and philanthropic levels, Selig says.

“It leads to a little more sharing on the ground in what needs to be done,” he adds.

Steve Kaufer , founder of Massachusetts-headquartered e-commerce giving platform Give Freely and founder of TripAdvisor, says that the economy has a much bigger role in election years, as he looks to build and grow something that can act as a “counterbalance.”

“There’s a trend towards democratisation, and acting collectively can lead to greater impact,” he says.

Kaufer’s new platform hopes to leverage the everyday philanthropist through online shopping dollars to benefit major charity partners like UNICEF and charity:water, who earn funds as shoppers choose an organisation to benefit through an online clickthrough process.

“Whether a good year or bad year, e-commerce will continue to keep growing,” he says. “Nobody doubts that.”

Whether a legacy foundation, corporation or individual, the political landscape this year is requiring some to exercise caution as they consider what their own charitable actions might be and how it could be viewed more broadly. For the personal philanthropist, every move is now scrutinised more closely. On the nonprofit side, entities are exercising more due diligence to understand if a specific donor aligns with their mission and that there aren’t any underlying issues that could cause greater pushback.

“You have to be able to walk the walk,” Huston says. “For example, we’ve had to turn down very large donor checks from corporations because there’s a Reddit stream calling them out on their human rights practices.”

She adds that even a routine charity activation could now be aligned with a political party, and that adds complexities to how a higher-profile organisation like Six Degrees can activate, especially as the film Footloose turns 40 in 2024 (which Bacon starred in).

“A lot of organisations and states want to align themselves with this feel good moment, and we should be able to stand side by side with everyone, but we have to be aware,” she says.

Another topic attracting donor interest today is  mental health, an area that historically has been underfunded and under-resourced by philanthropy, according to Two Bridge partner Harris Schwartzberg, who has been closely linked to the mental health space for more than a decade.

Today, the issue for mental health nonprofits is less about resources and more about societal divisiveness and polarisation around the topic. There’s an “overwhelming demand” for solutions, but the space is in a “perfect storm” for the broader political issues to make things worse, Schwartzberg says.

In Curran’s opinion, the storms brewing are troublesome, but they are also creating new opportunities for corporate and personal giving. The  current state of philanthropy is one of “dynamic, expansive, and blurred lines,” meaning a careful blending of targeted giving combined with an understanding of the broader geopolitical landscape could lead to a successful overall philanthropic strategy.

“There are a lot of headlines that distract, but shouldn’t,” he says. “2024 needs more serious philanthropists than ever.”

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