‘Executive Excess’ Report Americans Pay A Staggering Cost For Corporate Leadership
WASHINGTON - August 29 - With leading Presidential candidates turning up the heat on overpaid CEOs, a new report from the Institute for Policy Studies and United for a Fair Economy documents for the first time the extreme pay gaps that have opened up not just between U.S. business leaders and American workers, but between U.S. business leaders and leaders elsewhere in American — and European — society.
The complete new report, Executive Excess 2007, is now available to journalists online at www.faireconomy.org/executiveexcess. It is embargoed until Wednesday, August 29.
CEO-WORKER PAY GAP: CEOs of large U.S. companies last year averaged $10.8 million in total compensation, over 364 times the pay of the average U.S. worker, a calculation based on data from an Associated Press survey of 386 Fortune 500 companies.
The top 20 private equity and hedge fund managers, pocketed an average $657.5 million, Forbes magazine estimates. That’s 22,255 times the pay of an average U.S. worker.
Workers on the bottom rung of the economy have just received their first federal minimum wage increase in a decade. But the inflation-adjusted value of the new minimum, despite the hike, stands 7 percent below the minimum wage level a decade ago. CEO pay, in that decade, has increased over inflation by roughly 45 percent.
“The CEO-worker pay gap is finally getting some high-profile attention from Presidential candidates,” says report co-author Sarah Anderson of the Institute for Policy Studies. “But lawmakers still aren’t doing nearly enough to tackle the gap.”
PENSION AND PERK GAPS: CEOs at major U.S. corporations enjoyed, on average, $1.3 million in pension gains last year. By contrast, only 58.5 percent of American households led by a 45-to-54-year-old even had a retirement account in 2004. Between 2001 and 2004, the retirement accounts of these households gained an average of only $3,775 in value per year.
CEOs of S&P 500 companies retire with an average $10.1 million in their special Supplemental Executive Retirement Plans, accounts not open to average workers. By contrast, only 36.3 percent of American households headed by an individual 65 or older held any type of retirement account in 2004. The accounts that did exist averaged only $173,552 per household.
The top 386 CEOs took in perks worth an average of $438,342 in 2006. A minimum wage worker would need to work 36 years to earn as much as CEOs obtained just in perks last year.
THE LEADERSHIP PAY GAP: Compensation for American business leaders now wildly dwarfs the pay that goes to leaders in other sectors of American society. The 20 highest-paid individuals at publicly traded corporations last year took home, on average, $36.4 million. That’s 38 times more than the 20 highest-paid leaders in the nonprofit sector and 204 times more than the 20 highest-paid generals in the U.S. military.
The 20 highest-paid figures in the private equity and hedge fund industry collected 3,315 times more in average annual compensation in 2006 than the top 20 officials of the federal government’s executive branch, a group that includes the President of the United States.
“Today’s soaring pay gap between business executives and elected leaders in government essentially makes corruption inevitable,” notes Sam Pizzigati, an Institute for Policy Studies associate fellow. “With such huge windfalls at stake, business leaders have a powerful incentive to manipulate the political decisions that affect corporate earnings.”
THE US-EUROPEAN EXECUTIVE PAY GAP: In 2006, the 20 highest-paid European corporate managers made an average of $12.5 million, only one third as much as the 20 highest-earning U.S. executives took home last year. These 20 top European execs led companies that generated $19 billion more in sales revenue than the corporations led by their higher-paid American counterparts.
PROPOSALS FOR CHANGE: Executive Excess 2007 highlights six practical initiatives that can rein in runaway executive pay. Five involve eliminating perverse tax incentives for excessive pay, while one would use government contracting dollars to encourage more reasonable pay.
According to report co-author Chuck Collins, “Meaningful change could be on the horizon, as many political leaders are finally catching up to the public outcry to rein in excessive compensation.”
Authored by Sarah Anderson, John Cavanagh, Chuck Collins, Sam Pizzigati, and Mike Lapham, Executive Excess 2007 is the 14th annual CEO pay study by the Institute for Policy Studies and United for a Fair Economy.
The Institute for Policy Studies is an independent center for progressive research and education in Washington, D.C. United for a Fair Economy is a national organization based in Boston that spotlights growing economic inequality.