Regulator criticises Marie Stopes over £434,000 CEO salary

The Charity Commission has criticised trustees at Marie Stopes International for the 'significant' pay package awarded to the charity’s chief executive.

The charity came under fire earlier this year when it was revealed the CEO, Simon Cooke, had been paid a ‘significant bonus’, which boosted his annual salary to £434,000, after the charity’s income rose by £700,000 in a year.

An investigation into the trustees' decision was opened by the regulator after several concerns were raised about the size of the package, which was branded ‘obscene’ and ‘excessive’ by others in the sector.

The regulator said the trustees accepted the written documentation around the decisions on the CEO’s pay is ‘inadequate’ and that it is ‘not clear how the principles they were supposed to follow in setting this package were applied in practice’.

It added the charity was unable to provide the regulator with any evidence that a “proper and robust” discussion took place either at full board or the charity’s remuneration committee about the appropriate level of pay to be awarded to the CEO.

Furthermore, the trustees were unable to show they had taken into account all the relevant factors, as required by Charity Commission guidance. The trustees told the regulator that a robust discussion did take place, but was not properly minuted.

The regulator has subsequently issued the charity with formal advice, requiring the trustees to “review the factors it takes into account when making decisions about the CEO’s remuneration”.

The trustees have also been directed to ensure all their decisions are adequately recorded so that the factors taken into account are clearly set out, as well as the final decision.

Commenting, Charity Commission CEO, Helen Stephenson said: “We understand why the public care about how charities pay their staff and why this undermines the reputation of charities as a whole. It’s because issues like CEO pay help the public see how a charity is stewarding its resources, and whether it is behaving in an authentically charitable way, distinct from the attitudes that might prevail in a commercial organisation.

“We are not a regulator or controller of executive pay. But we expect decisions of this nature to be made carefully, mindfully, and in a way that ultimately serves the charity’s beneficiaries into the future and demonstrates their special status as a charity.”

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