Well, the results are in and, to paraphrase Chico Escuela, the current recovery been berry, berry good to corporate CEOs in the United States.
According to GMI Ratings’ 2013 CEO Pay Survey, CEO compensation has set a new record: for the first time ever, the ten highest-paid chief executives in the United States all received more than $100 million in compensation and two of them took home billion-dollar paychecks.
The report also shows that the median increase in total realized compensation for S&P 500 CEOs was 19.65 percent (an increase even over last year, when they benefited from a 13.78-percent increase at the median).
While salary, bonuses, and perks remained relatively flat in the S&P 500, it was the profits made from the exercise of stock options and the vesting of restricted stock that represented the bulk of pay in the index. Examples include Michael D. White, third-year CEO of DIRECTV, who saw a realized compensation increase from $5.7 million in 2011 to $50.8 million in 2012. The increase occurred when Mr. White exercised more than one million stock options (worth $18 million) and saw more than a half million units of restricted stock vest (worth $26.8 million), all equity granted in a CEO Golden Hello. The company’s stock price has climbed about 80% over the past three years.
The average increase for the same group was 55.18 percent.
To make the appropriate comparison, consider the increase in hourly pay for workers (production and nonsupervisory) between December 2011 and December 2012. It amounted to 1.8 percent. The growing gap between those at the top and the rest meant that, in 2012, the CEO-to-worker-pay ratio in the United States rose to 354 to 1.*
Clearly, the current recovery has been very good for a tiny minority of executives, who are managing to leave everyone else behind.
*Again, for purposes of comparison, that ratio was 42:1 in 1982 and 281:1 just a decade ago. In terms of other countries, it was 89:1 in Sweden, 93:1 in Australia, and 147:1 in Germany in 2012.