We’re Number One! America Leads the Way in CEO-Worker Income Gap

Jessica Corbett January 4, 2018

American CEOs make 265 times the amount of money an average worker is paid. (Getty)

This arti­cle first appeared on Com­mon Dreams.

As cor­po­ra­tions and wealthy indi­vid­u­als across the Unit­ed States are slat­ed to ben­e­fit from mas­sive tax breaks thanks to the GOP’s lat­est tax leg­is­la­tion, a Bloomberg analy­sispub­lished Thurs­day found that chief exec­u­tives of Amer­i­can com­pa­nies already make 265 times the amount of mon­ey an aver­age work­er is paid — the largest CEO-work­er income gap in the world.

CEOs of the biggest pub­licly trad­ed U.S. com­pa­nies aver­aged $14.3 mil­lion in annu­al pay, more than dou­ble that of their Cana­di­an coun­ter­parts and 10 times greater than those in India,” accord­ing to Bloomberg. While India ranked sec­ond on Bloombergs CEO pay-to-aver­age income ratio, Indi­an chief exec­u­tives made about a tenth of their Amer­i­can coun­ter­parts’ incomes, aver­ag­ing $1.46 mil­lion annually.

There are myr­i­ad rea­sons for com­pen­sa­tion dis­crep­an­cies between exec­u­tives,” Bloombergnotes. The U.S. is home to sev­er­al of the world’s largest cor­po­ra­tions, which tend to pay more. Cost of liv­ing is often high­er in North Amer­i­ca and West­ern Europe than some parts of Asia. And even the mere dis­clo­sure of detailed fig­ures can push pay high­er as boards set CEOs’ com­pen­sa­tion in line with their peers.”

The new analy­sis comes as a secu­ri­ty fil­ing by Apple — one of the largest pub­lic com­pa­nies in the Unit­ed States — revealed on Wednes­day that the com­pa­ny gave CEO Tim Cook and some of its oth­er exec­u­tives major raises.

The Wall Street Jour­nal reports Cook’s total com­pen­sa­tion for the fis­cal year, which end­ed in Sep­tem­ber, jumped 47 per­cent — to $12.8 mil­lion — the largest bump among the five exec­u­tives list­ed in Apple’s annu­al proxy fil­ing,” notably dri­ven by his cash bonus, which was hinged on exceed­ing the rev­enue and prof­it tar­gets set by the board.”

Apple’s oth­er high­est-paid exec­u­tives received small­er increas­es in total com­pen­sa­tion, accord­ing to Wednes­day’s fil­ing, each ris­ing about 6 per­cent to just over $24 mil­lion from just under $23 mil­lion a year ago,” the Jour­nal reports. Com­pen­sa­tion for each includ­ed about $1 mil­lion in salary, $20 mil­lion in restrict­ed stock, and $3.1 mil­lion in cash for performance.”

Although Cook’s year­ly com­pen­sa­tion is low­er than that of oth­er Apple exec­u­tives, the Jour­nal notes that the num­ber is some­what mis­lead­ing because of a large restrict­ed stock grant he received in 2011. About 560,000 shares of that award vest­ed in fis­cal 2017 that were val­ued at $89.2 mil­lion”—push­ing the Apple CEO’s 2017 total pay­out beyond $100 million.

While Cook’s year­ly income is sub­stain­tial, it’s less than half of what was giv­en to the high­est-paid chief exec­u­tive in 2016. As CNBC report­ed in July, the exec­u­tive who was paid the most last year was Marc Lore, CEO of e‑commerce at Wal-Mart, who made $243.9 mil­lion; he was fol­lowed by Sun­dar Pichai, CEO of Alpha­bet’s Google, who made $199.7 mil­lion, and Robert J. Coury, the chair­man of the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­ny Mylan, who made $136.8 million.

Last year’s CEO-to-work­er com­pen­sa­tion ratio, cal­cu­lat­ed by the Eco­nom­ic Pol­i­cy Insti­tute (EPI), was 271-to‑1, with the chief exec­u­tives of Amer­i­can com­pa­nies see­ing an aver­age of $15.6 mil­lion in annu­al com­pen­sa­tion. The EPI report, which was pub­lished in July, notes that regard­less of how it’s mea­sured, CEO pay con­tin­ues to be very, very high and has grown far faster in recent decades than typ­i­cal work­er pay,” and exor­bi­tant CEO pay means that the fruits of eco­nom­ic growth are not going to ordi­nary workers.”

EPI pres­i­dent Lawrence Mis­chel and research assis­tant Jes­si­ca Schieder found that CEO com­pen­sa­tion rose by 807 or 937 per­cent (depend­ing on how it is mea­sured — using stock options grant­ed or stock options real­ized, respec­tive­ly) from 1978 to 2016.” They argue that exor­bi­tant CEO compensation…has fueled the growth of the top 1 per­cent incomes” at the expense of the vast major­i­ty of workers.”

Sim­ply put, mon­ey that goes to the exec­u­tive class is mon­ey that does not go to oth­er peo­ple. Ris­ing exec­u­tive pay is not con­nect­ed to over­all growth in the eco­nom­ic pie,” Mishel explained, as Com­mon Dreams pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed. We could cur­tail the explo­sive growth in CEO pay with­out doing any harm to the economy.”

In response to their find­ings in July, Mishel and Schieder pro­posed the fol­low­ing pol­i­cy solutions:

  • Rein­state high­er mar­gin­al income tax rates at the very top.
  • Remove the tax break for exec­u­tive per­for­mance pay.
  • Set cor­po­rate tax rates high­er for firms that have high­er ratios of CEO-to-work­er compensation.
  • Allow greater use of say on pay,” which allows a fir­m’s share­hold­ers to vote on top exec­u­tives’ compensation.
Jes­si­ca Cor­bett, a for­mer In These Times intern, is a Maine-based staff writer at Com­mon Dreams. Fol­low her on Twit­ter at @corbett_jessica.
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