Fact check: Bernie Sanders' claims about insurance company CEOs' income


Bernie Sanders made three claims on Twitter about what insurance company CEOs earned in 2017. He wrote:

What insurance company CEOs made in 2017:
– Leonard Schleifer (Regeneron): $95.3 million
– Dave Wichmann (UnitedHealth): $83.2 million
– Mark Bertolini (Aetna): $58.7 million

Claim 1: Leonard Schleifer (Regeneron): $95.3 million

Fact check:

False. Regeneron is not insurance company – it’s a biotech company that Schleifer founded.

Schleifer was reported to have earned roughly $95 million in 2017, according to Axios. Sanders may have used figures directly from this July Axios report, it’s unclear why he included Schleifer on the list.

Conversely, according to Regeneron’s SEC filing, Schleifer earned $26.5 million in salary, option awards, incentives, and other compensation in 2017.

Axios arrived at their number by combining salary with “actual realized gains” which is how much money they received from selling their stock options. This differs from “unrealized gains” which are predictions of how much a stock will be worth if it is sold.

Axios data table available here.

Claim 2: Dave Wichmann (UnitedHealth): $83.2 million

Fact check:

True. Axios determined the $83.2 million figure the same way as Schleifer, by combining salary with actual realized gains. Wichmann’s reported 2017 salary of $17 million pales in comparison to what he earned in bonuses and additional compensation (Fierce Healthcare). 

Axios data table available here.

Claim 3: Mark Bertolini (Aetna): $58.7 million

Fact check:

True. Axios determined that Bertolini’s salary combined with his actual realized gains totaled $58.7 million.

The Wall Street Journal says $17.3 million in 2015, up from $15.1 million in 2014. This is not directly relevant to the claim by Bernie Sanders but provides an initial potential for context.

Bertolini could make significantly more if Aetna sells to CVS, according to Business Insider.

“As much as $85 million” could be his payout is the sale closes. This suggests that if we verify the Sanders claim, we will want to add the context of what the main cause of the spike was, if it was the acquisition.

Axios data table available here.

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