Dutch parliament fumes over Booking.com 2020 executive pay

·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: The logo global online travel brand Expedia of is pictured at the International Tourism Trade Fair in Berlin

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch parliamentarians upset at the level of executive pay at U.S. travel firm Booking Holdings Inc on Wednesday asked the government to investigate whether the company could be forced to repay some $78 million in pandemic financial support.

Minister for Social Affairs Wouter Koolmees responded during a debate that that would neither be possible nor legal. But he added that he "could not get my head around" the company's pay decisions, given the financial setbacks it faced in 2020, which included a 55% fall in revenue.

Nasdaq-listed Booking Holdings, which owns Priceline, Agoda and OpenTable, is based in Delaware. But Booking.com is its most lucrative subsidiary and the company has a headquarters in Amsterdam.

Dutch politicians took up the executive pay issue after newspaper NRC Handelsblad first reported on it last week, citing company filings in the United States.

Total 2020 compensation for CEO Glenn Fogel was $7.1 million and for CFO David Goulden was $24 million.

"The remuneration of our key executives leading this recovery (from the pandemic) is in the form of shares of stock, which can only be potentially sold in years to come, depending on the performance of the company and ability to meet certain targets if recovery continues," the company said.

A spokeswoman for the company said that Booking's board had determined pay in line with industry standards and a company of its size and noted that Goulden's 2020 pay included hiring and retention incentives.

Booking reported an operating loss of $12.5 billion in 2020, down from operating income of $6.6 billion in 2019. The company's stock has recovered all the ground it lost in 2020 and reached all-time highs in expectation of a travel rebound this year.

($1 = 0.8197 euros)

(Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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