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In another sign of economic rebound, average Hawaii CEO pay rose 20% last year

In another sign that Hawaii’s economy is rebounding, the CEOs who run Hawaii’s largest companies got hefty pay increases last year.
Published: Apr. 25, 2022 at 5:30 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 25, 2022 at 10:27 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In another sign that Hawaii’s economy is rebounding, the CEOs who run Hawaii’s largest companies got hefty pay increases last year.

A Hawaii News Now review of company proxy statements filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission shows that the top executives of Hawaii’s largest publicly traded companies received an average pay increase of more than $750,000 in 2021. Their average take-home pay: $4.5 million.

Rev. David Gierlach, rector of the St. Elizabeth Episcopal Church in Kalihi and a staunch advocate for increasing Hawaii’s minimum age, said the pay hikes are worrisome when so many are struggling.

The average pay for the CEO  at Hawaii's largest pubicly traded company increased to about $4.5...
The average pay for the CEO at Hawaii's largest pubicly traded company increased to about $4.5 million last year.(none)

“It’s immoral. Forget about the economic unsustainability of it all and the fact that there’s no rational justification for it. It’s greed personified,” Gierlach said.

But business groups and the companies point out that the executive pay is performance-based and the increase reflects Hawaii’s rebounding economy.

“When revenues on the rise with companies doing better with the economy opening up, I think that’s the biggest reason why we’re seeing the rise in pay,” said Trevor Abarzua, associate vice president of business advocacy for the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii.

According to company filings with the SEC:

  • Bank of Hawaii Corp.’s CEO Peter Ho earned the most last year with $7.3 million;
  • Matson Inc. CEO Matt Cox and former Hawaiian Electric Industries CEO Constance Lau were next with both receiving $5.9 million;
  • First Hawaiian Inc.’s CEO Robert Harrison took home $4.4 million;
  • Alexander & Baldwin Inc. CEO Christopher Benjamin earned $4.1 million and Central Pacific Financial’s Corp.’s CEO Paul Yonamine took home $3.5 million;
  • Hawaiian Holdings Inc.’s CEO Peter Ingram received $3.1 million;
  • And Allan Kitagawa, CEO of Territorial Bancorp Inc. was paid $1.7 million.

Critics complained that the average CEO pay in Hawaii is now more than 40 times the median family income for the state.

“It’s simply outrageous. Look at the battles we’ve had trying to get a minimum wage up to something that’s approaching a livable wage and still not getting to that,” said Gierlach.

But business organizations point out that workers wages are rising, too.

“Salary increases are done by market, they look at the market and say okay we’re seeing the increases and that’s why these executives see that increase,” said Abarzua.

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