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Because you’re worth it

A million dollars a day? That’s $700 a minute. Who are these gods of the universe and why do they earn so much more than the average human being?

Just your top CEO.

I once worked with such a person and he (invariably it is a he) was petulant and lazy. What a delagator though.

Timothy Cook is the new CEO of Apple and last year was paid $900,000, but also given the sweetener of Apple stock, originally worth $376 million, but currently around $634 million.

2011 data on CEO remuneration tells us what we already knew; they do much better than the rest of us, whether they are performing well or not.

A recent study from Georgetown University estimated the typical American graduate will earn $2.3 million, not in a year, but in a lifetime.

Despite the economic downturn, which we are all meant to be in together, the pay of the US top 100 corporations at least held steady in 2011, according to Equilar, for the New York Times.

Overall, pay was raised for these gilded workers by two percent, from 2010, on average.

The median pay among the top 100 CEOs was $14.4 million, as opposed to the US average income of $45,230.
Their combined compensaton was $2.1 bn and it looks like a new elite is emerging in US corporate culture who are making over $10 million a year. That said, these are publicly-traded companies and the equivalent top hedge fund managers earned over $14.4 bn last year.

However, the devil is in the detail and the Equilar figures demonstrate how executive compensation can be tailored in many ways. Like Mr Cook, one-off huge stock grants, maybe token $1 million annual salaries, or unbelievable bonuses.

Apple may be an extreme example; Cook’s stock award was so valuable that his total compensation was more than that of the next ten CEOs combined, including Oracle’s Lawrence Ellison, on $77.6 million and Philippe Dauman, of Viacom, on $43.1 million.

Equilar says that Mr Cook’s compensation was unique and skewed the overall figures, but Apple was not the only special case.

Ronald Johnson, new CEO of JC Penney, came in third on the list, with a total compensation package of $53.3 million.
The reason? The year previously he left his position as senior vice president of retail at Apple, along with stock worth $101 million, that had not yet been vested. So, as part of his pay package, JC Penney gave him a one-time stock award worth $52.6 million.

Other top earners included Stephen Chazen ($31.7 million), of Occidental Petroleum, Gregory Brown ($29.3 million), of Motorola Solutions and Howard Schultz ($16.1 million), of Starbucks.

Analysts say the upturn in CEO pay is a sign corporations are returning to business as usual after the last recession, although corporate boards seem to be acknowledging criticism of executive pay, reducing discretionary bonuses and linking pay more closely to performance metrics, like revenue and share price.

Corporate America hasn’t entirely embraced reform; many companies have put pressure on the Securities and Exchange Commission to jettison, or at least, delay, the provision in the Dodd-Frank law that would require companies to disclose the ratio of CEO pay to median employee pay, a sensitive issue in the era of ‘one percent’.

2011’s top 100 earners have one thing in common; although they all rank in the one percent (households with at least $380,000 per annum), they also belong in the more exclusive club, of those earning more than $10 million in pay.

The problem is that the CEO wealth is not trickling down into an ailing economy. In 2010, the top one percent captured 93% of the income gains, while the incomes of the rest remained practically flat.

Essentially, in the US, Europe and most of the rest of the world, the pay differential between the top level and the shop floor, has never been greater. Workers are having to make do with less, while CEOs have never had it better.

Nigel Phillips

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