The Washington Post
April 16, 2010
UnitedHealth CEO reaps nearly $100 million from stock options
By David S. Hilzenrath
The chief executive of UnitedHealth Group, one of the nation's largest health insurers, reaped almost $100 million from exercising stock options last year, the company reported Thursday.
Stephen J. Hemsley exercised 4.9 million options in February 2009 at a gain of $98.6 million, the company said in a regulatory filing. The options were awarded almost a decade earlier.
According to measurement standards used by the Securities and Exchange Commission, Hemsley's compensation for 2009 was a less stratospheric $8.9 million, up from $3.2 million in 2008. The 2009 total included a salary of $1.3 million, which was unchanged from the previous year, and a cash bonus of $2 million, up from $1.8 million the year before. It also included $5.6 million attributed to stock-related awards.
The compensation committee of UnitedHealth's board believed that Hemsley's 2009 compensation package "was appropriate to recognize Mr. Hemsley's overall leadership in positioning the Company for long-term success in a very difficult overall economic environment," UnitedHealth said in the report filed with the SEC Thursday.
The committee credited Hemsley with "enhancing the Company's reputation, ethical culture and tone at the top."
"Although Mr. Hemsley's total compensation is below the median as compared to other CEOs in the Company's peer groups, the Compensation Committee and Mr. Hemsley agree that it is sufficient to motivate and retain him," the company reported.
Comment: Although the compensation of UnitedHealth's Stephen Hemsley may be enough to motivate and retain him, it is difficult to see how it affirms his role in enhancing an ethical culture at the top. The behavior for which he is being rewarded is precisely what should have been eliminated with the recently enacted health care financing legislation.
The ethical culture we should have would be one in which our health care dollars would be used to ensure that everyone receives the health care that they need. Instead, President Obama and Congress have ensured that Mr. Hemsley and his ilk will continue to be richly rewarded (for what?), while tens of millions are left without coverage, and the rest of us will have difficulties paying our premiums and our-of-pocket expenses.
UnitedHealth's version of "ethical culture." What BS!