Abigail Disney, a filmmaker and activist, told CNBC's Squawk Box: "CEOs in general are paid far too much".

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on March 8, 2019

Disney has long advocated a cap on executive compensation and higher tax rates for the ultra-wealthy.

She is currently part of a group of around 200 millionaires based in New York who are lobbying politicians to enact a “millionaires tax” on households who earn more than US$5 million. This money could then be used to help fund infrastructure projects, affordable housing, mental health services and vocational training, the group says.

Abigail Disney: “I can’t sit back and accumulate wealth”

“The problem is that there’s a systematic favouring of people who have accumulated an enormous amount of wealth,” she told the program.

“If your CEO salary is at the 700, 600, 500 times your median workers’ pay, there is nobody on Earth, Jesus Christ himself isn’t worth 500 times his median workers’ pay.”

Disney is the grand-daughter of Roy Disney, who co-founded The Walt Disney Co. with his brother Walt in 1923. She had previously renounced profits from her share of the family company that came from a cosmetics company that manufactures products in the West Bank settlement. She has also been active in the non-profit sector.

Disney’s current CEO, Bob Iger, recently agreed to a new deal which reduces his maximum potential annual salary by US$13.5 million. In 2018, he had received a 80% pay raise, which took his pay to US$65.6 million. Shareholders had voted against that deal, but it was a non-binding vote. The pay rise was linked to his performance last fiscal year and his decision to stay with the entertainment giant through to 2021, when it will have completed its blockbuster acquisition of 21st Century Fox and the launch of its new streaming service.

Disney said it was commonly accepted that the CEO made hundreds of times more than median workers and that this was a systemic problem in the US.

“I can’t sit back and accumulate wealth simply because I inherited it,” she tweeted after the interview.

Millionaires calling for higher taxes on the wealthy

She had previously been one of the signatories to an open letter on the millionaires tax to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. The letter says the proposed tax rises would contribute an additional US$2-3 billion to the public purse.

“We millionaires and multi-millionaires of New York can easily invest more in the Empire State, and lawmakers like you have a moral and a fiduciary duty to make sure we do so,” the letter states.

“To be clear, paying higher taxes will not affect our individual standards of living one bit. Most of us will literally not notice the difference.”

It goes on to argue any millionaires who flee New York in the wake of such a tax are not community-minded and “Connecticut can have them”.