Buffett disapproves of Coca-Cola’s plan

NEW YORK (AP) – Warren Buffett says he disapproves of Coca-Cola’s highly contested pay plan for its executives.

Buffett, the beverage maker’s largest shareholder, called the plan “excessive” in an interview on CNBC after it was approved at the company’s annual meeting. But he said Berkshire Hathaway abstained from voting against the pay plan because he didn’t want to express disapproval of the company’s management.

Buffett also noted during the interview how difficult it can be to sit on company boards and oppose a pay plan. Over his 55 years sitting on the boards of various companies, he said he has never heard anyone speak out against a compensation committee’s plan.

“Taking them on is a little bit like belching at the dinner table,” Buffett said. He added that he’s voted in favor of compensation plans he hasn’t agreed with in the past.

Coca-Cola Co.’s pay plan came under scrutiny after Wintergreen Advisers took public issue with it last month. Wintergreen CEO David Winters said the plan was a “raw deal” for shareholders that would transfer roughly $13 billion to management over the next four years. He urged Buffett to vote against the plan.

Buffett has long been a critic of excessive executive compensation. Berkshire Hathaway does not award stock options to Buffett or any other executive, and Buffett himself receives a salary of $100,000.

“Too often, executive compensation in the U.S. is ridiculously out of line with performance,” Buffett wrote in his letter to shareholders in 2005. “That won’t change, moreover, because the deck is stacked against investors when it comes to the CEO’s pay.”

Last year, Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent was given a pay packages worth $18.2 million, according to an Associated Press analysis.