Huge Paydays for C.E.O.s, as Gap With Workers Widened

The New York Times reports on “a blowout year” for CEO pay.

Even in a gilded age for executive pay, 2020 was a blowout year. A comprehensive survey of the 200 highest-paid chief executives at public companies conducted for The New York Times by Equilar, an executive compensation consulting firm, revealed some of the biggest pay packages on record, and showed that the gap between C.E.O.s and everybody else widened during the pandemic….The class of 2020 crashed another elite club: Eight of the top-earning executives got compensation last year worth more than $100 million. In 2019, only one earned more than that; in 2018, five did…

Last year’s colossal awards sprouted from a well-developed corporate compensation culture, in which boards, consultants and executives preach the gospel of “pay for performance,” which typically links C.E.O. compensation to the company’s stock price. But this approach can lead to enormous payouts if stocks go up. The S&P 500 returned nearly 18 percent in 2020, including dividends, and C.E.O.s reaped handsome rewards. But the question is, how much do they really deserve?

“They are emphasizing performance equity awards so much and ignoring how big they are,” said Michael Varner, director of executive compensation research at CtW Investment Group. “This is one of the chief culprits of the continuing rise in executive pay over the decades.”

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