In a move that’s got tongues wagging, South Korean bio-pharmaceutical titan, Celltrion, has controversially hiked the maximum payout for its directors from KRW 9 billion to a whopping KRW 20 billion. The company’s bigwigs claim the move is due to an increase in the number of directors after last year’s merger with Celltrion Healthcare. But, critics are crying foul, branding the raise as over the top.

Celltrion CEO /X

Celltrion’s gamble comes in stark contrast to the actions of tech behemoths like Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, LG Chem, and SK Telecom, who are all slashing their director pay limits this year.

Celltrion bigwig, Shin Min-chul, defended the move, stating that the whopping KRW 20 billion limit was set after considering the average remuneration levels of the top 10 fat-cat firms on the Kospi index.

Despite the rumblings, Celltrion insists they’re not immediately fattening the directors’ wallets but merely increasing the total possible payout. Last year, the company paid out a total of KRW 5.6 billion to its directors.

Shareholders are up in arms about the decision, with the National Pension Service – the second-largest shareholder – voicing its opposition to the pay hike and branding it as excessive.

Celltrion’s CEO, Seo Jin-seok, attempted to quell the uproar, promising to keep the directors’ payouts below KRW 12 billion. Seo was re-elected as an internal director the same day.

The move has also sparked a fiery debate about the return of surplus capital to shareholders. One shareholder demanded to know if there were plans to dish out larger dividends, given the company’s net assets ballooned from KRW 6 trillion to KRW 20 trillion following the merger. But Chairman Seo, participating from the US, quashed the suggestion, warning that returning surplus capital to shareholders would spell doom for the company’s future.