Independent consultant to review 'ridiculously overpaid' TVA CEO

08 September 2020 2 min. read

Public utility Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has called in an independent consultant to review the compensation of its CEO, after President Donald Trump called him “ridiculously overpaid.”

The TVA – which is a federally owned corporation responsible for power generation, flood control, and economic development in Tennessee and portions of several adjoining states – said that it will hire a new consultant to examine the compensation of its CEO, Jeff Lyash.

The state-owned enterprise tapped Erin Bass-Goldberg of FW Cook – a New York-based executive compensation consultancy – to conduct the assessment, which is expected to be completed before the TVA’s November board meeting.

Lyash’s compensation was $8.1 million in the first six months of 2020, making him the highest paid federal employee. The TVA, however, doesn’t use taxpayer dollars and relies almost exclusively on electric utility fees.

The total compensation for the TVA CEO was $15.1 million in 2019, split between Lyash and his predecessor Bill Johnson.

Independent consultant to review 'ridiculously overpaid' TVA CEO

The TVA Act, which created the corporation in 1933 as part of FDR’s New Deal program, requires that its compensation be competitive with other major utilities. The TVA has said that its executive compensation is in the bottom quartile of big utilities.

President Trump last month called for CEO Jeff Lyash to be replaced, and for the position’s pay to be capped at $500,000.

The TVA entered President Trump’s crosshairs in July when he saw an advertisement funded by US Tech Workers, a non-profit focused on protecting US tech jobs. The TV ad highlighted the corporation’s plan to outsource nearly 200 internal IT jobs to companies based in foreign countries.

Trump in August proceeded to fire the TVA board chair, as well as another board member. He also invited the TVA IT staff who would have lost their jobs to a high-profile gathering at the White House.

“Let this serve as a warning to any federally appointed board,” Trump said at the meeting. “If you betray American workers, then you will hear two simple words: ‘You’re fired.’”

The TVA, its knuckles thoroughly rapped, quickly reversed course to preserve the union jobs and cancel its outsourcing contracts. The outsourcing contractors included Accenture and Capgemini, who are among the top ten applicants for H1-B foreign tech worker visas. H1-B visa holders make up approximately 10% of the domestic IT workforce, with the vast majority of the 600,000 visas being held by workers from India and China.

According to research from the Economic Policy Institute, companies using H1B visas realize a discount of up to 34% on the market rate for software developers.