A shareholder advisory firm Monday recommended that Countrywide Financial Corp. stockholders endorse a proposal giving them a nonbinding vote on setting pay for top executives at the Calabasas-based company.
Countrywide Chief Executive Angelo Mozilo is among the highest-paid CEOs in the U.S. Critics often say he is overpaid.
Proxy Governance Inc. also encouraged stockholders to withhold votes for board members Harley Snyder and Robert Donato, who sit on Countrywide's compensation committee and are up for reelection at the largest U.S. mortgage lender's June 13 annual meeting.
So-called say-on-pay proposals have received substantial minority support from shareholders at other financial service companies including Citigroup Inc. and Morgan Stanley. A narrow majority of shareholders at Verizon Communications Inc. endorsed a similar proposal.
Countrywide representatives couldn't be reached for comment.
Mozilo, who co-founded Countrywide in 1969, received $48.13 million in total compensation for 2006. Countrywide shares rose 24% last year, outpacing a 7% rise in an index of mortgage stocks.
In its proxy filing, Countrywide said it tried to pay Mozilo as much or more than what 90% of his peers receive, citing his "status, knowledge and reputation as a top leader in the industry, as well as his contributions to creating stockholder value."
Like many companies, Countrywide also said giving shareholders an advisory vote on pay would limit its ability to attract and retain top talent.
Countrywide shares rose 30 cents Monday to $39.20.