Health insurer Humana spent about $323,000 last year letting incoming CEO Bruce Broussard use company aircraft to commute to work.
The Louisville-based company said the expense was part of its employment agreement with Broussard, according to an annual proxy statement filed Monday with regulators.
The 50-year-old executive joined Humana as president in late 2011 and became CEO on Jan. 1, 2013, replacing long-standing chief executive Michael McCallister.
Humana's agreement with Broussard allows him to use the company aircraft to commute from his residence to corporate headquarters, according to the proxy filing. That deal ends Aug. 31, or when Broussard moves to Louisville.
The proxy did not say where Broussard lives. A company representative declined to comment on that and other questions about the expense.
Companies routinely spend about $200,000 on travel for top executives aboard company aircraft, said Charles Elson, director of the Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance at the University of Delaware. But he said that figure normally includes trips to meetings, events or hard-to-reach company locations.
He called the total spent on Broussard's commute a big number.
"Part of becoming a CEO means you move to the place where the company's located," he said. "They pay you enough to do that."
Elson said Broussard and Humana may have a good reason for the expense. But it also could send the wrong message to people coming to work for the company, since Humana likely wouldn't allow others the same expense.
"If the CEO's compensation scheme becomes too divorced from the rest of the organization, you create all kinds of incentive problems," he said.
Last year as president, Broussard received total compensation valued at nearly $2.9 million. That included a $900,000 salary, a performance-related bonus of $1.3 million, and $631,154 in other compensation. The commuting expense was included in the "other" category.
In contrast, McCallister, who still serves as company chairman, received total compensation valued at $8.4 million.
Humana is the nation's fifth-largest health insurer and one of the biggest providers of Medicare Advantage plans, which are privately run versions of the government's Medicare program.
The company's earnings fell 14 percent last year to $1.22 billion, or $7.47 per share, compared with 2011. Revenue climbed more than 6 percent to $39.13 billion.