Allowing everyone in a company to know what the top executives are earning is an appealing concept. But, according to Warren Buffett, disclosing compensation has very real drawbacks.
"It's very seldom that publishing compensation accomplishes much for the shareholders," the Berkshire Hathaway chairman and CEO told Andrew Ross Sorkin at the 2014 annual meeting, adding: "American shareholders are paying a significant price for the fact that they get to look at that proxy statement each year and see how much those top five officers are earning."
That's why, on its annual proxy statement to the SEC, Berkshire Hathaway only lists three executives and their pay: Buffett, his business partner Charlie Munger and CFO Marc Hamburg.
As Ross Sorkin noted, that's an anomaly: "I always see a number of proxy statements each year. In all except Berkshire, the summary compensation table has the compensation listed for at least five or more of the highest paid executives."