Since the bust, corporate America on the whole has moved to tie executive pay more closely to long-term performance by skewing executive paychecks more toward restricted stock, which can’t be sold for years.
But rewards at the top are still rich — and getting richer. Now that 2011 proxy statements have been filed, the extent of executive pay last year has finally become clear. Median pay of the nation’s 200 top-paid C.E.O.’s was $14.5 million, according to a study conducted for The New York Times by Equilar, a compensation data firm based in Redwood City, Calif. The median pay raise among those C.E.O.’s was 5 percent.
That 5 percent raise is smaller than last year’s. But it comes at a time of stubbornly high unemployment and declining wealth for many ordinary Americans. Even corporate pay experts say that this is hardly the kind of change that will quell anger over the nation’s have-a-lots by the have-lesses, particularly in an election year.
“The bigger issues are there, still to be worked on, and those are the more difficult ones,” says Eleanor Bloxham, the chief executive of the Value Alliance, a firm in Westerville, Ohio, that consults on corporate pay. Corporations are changing pay practices, Ms. Bloxham says, but not enough: “There is too much hype and too little substance.”
The latest list of the most richly rewarded executives expands on a preliminary survey Equilar put together for The Times in April, before many companies had submitted final regulatory filings for 2011. While the earlier study showed the median pay package rising 2 percent from 2010 to 2011, the final figures put the increase at 5 percent.
The list has many familiar names, like Lawrence J. Ellison of Oracle ($77.6 million) and Leslie Moonves of CBS ($68.4 million). But a number of executives from smaller companies also landed near the top. Discovery Communications had about a tenth the revenue of Oracle last year, but gave its C.E.O., David M. Zaslav, $52.4 million, the sixth-largest pay package in corporate America, according to Equilar.
Because the list includes only the C.E.O.’s of public companies, it does not capture the many billions that have been earned by top hedge fund managers and private-equity dealmakers in recent years. But even in the more narrow universe of public companies, the complete Equilar study shows that there was not one, but two executives who had nine-figure paydays last year — the first time that has ever happened, according to Aaron Boyd, Equilar’s head of research.
David E. Simon, the top executive at the Simon Property Group, was the second-highest paid C.E.O. last year, with $137 million. He joined the exclusive nine-figure niche occupied by Timothy D. Cook, who succeeded Steve Jobs at Apple. Mr. Cook received a package valued at $378 million. The pay of both Mr. Simon and Mr. Cook were bolstered by one-time rewards that the companies said would not be repeated, and that are tied to future company performance."
Editor’s note: We at www.EndtheBushTaxCuts.com do not begrudge success. However, we do believe those at the top 1% of the income scale can afford higher tax rates; the levies of which would be used for the public good (infrastructure spending, education initiatives, a financial social safety net, etc)