PARIS (Reuters) -French President Emmanuel Macron and his far-right challenger Marine Le Pen on Friday called the pay package of Franco-Italian carmaker Stellantis' CEO "shocking" with excessive executive pay now a hot topic in France's tight-run presidential election.
Just 9 days ahead of a runoff that will determine who will lead the European Union's second-largest economy for the next five years, opinion polls show Macron is only slightly ahead of Le Pen in a contest that could potentially go either way.
The 2021 compensation package for Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares adds up to around 19 million euros ($20.5 million), plus a stock package worth some additional 32 million euros and long-term compensation of about 25 million euros.
"We're talking about astronomical sums here ... we should put a cap on these, this could work if we act at a European level," Macron told franceinfo radio.
"People can't have purchasing power problems, difficulties and anxiety in their lives and see sums like this," Macron said, adding that otherwise "society going to blow up".
Le Pen echoed his comments.
"Of course it is shocking. It's even more shocking when it's a CEO who has put the company in difficulty and gets considerable sums," she told BFM television, suggesting one way to offset such remuneration was to develop staff shareholdings.
The company said in a statement that it does not comment on politicians' positions and said the group had gone from near bankruptcy to a leading position under Tavares' leadership.
It added that it had paid out as much to staff as to shareholders - 1.9 billion euros - and said that Tavares' pay was 90% variable depending on company performance and lower than at rivals GM and Ford.
Just over 52% of the company's shareholders voted on Wednesday against the compensation package in a consultative vote.
($1 = 0.9257 euros)
(Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten and Leigh Thomas, Editing by Kirsten Donovan)