For the first time ever, the 10 highest-paid chief executives in the US all received more than $100m in compensation and two took home billion-dollar paychecks, according to a leading annual survey of executive pay.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's co-founder, was the US's highest paid boss last year, according to GMI Ratings annual poll of executive compensation, released on Tuesday. Zuckerberg's total compensation topped $2.27bn – more than $6m a day. His base salary was $503,205 but the vast majority of his enormous payday came from exercising 60m Facebook share options when the company went public last year.
Richard Kinder, CEO and chairman of energy firm Kinder Morgan, had a base salary of just $1 in 2012 and received no other bonuses. But he made $1.1bn selling restricted stock. The payout follows a nearly $60m profit from stock in 2011.
All told, the top 10 CEOs in this year's poll took home over $4.7bn between them and for the first time ever none earned less than $100m.
"I have never seen anything like that," said Greg Ruel, GMI's senior research consultant and author of the report. "Usually we have a few CEOs at the $100m-plus level but never the entire top 10."
Overall GMI's poll of pay and other forms of compensation for 2,259 US CEOs found an average rise of 8.47%, less than the double-digit growth they have enjoyed for the past two years. But the average hides a more complex picture. This year's top earners far outstripped those below them by making huge fortunes cashing in share options as the stock markets bounced back.
The report further illustrates the widening gap between CEO pay and that of the average worker. According to the US census bureau, median household income, adjusted for inflation, was $51,017 in 2012, broadly unchanged from 2011. Wages for the average household have fallen about 9% from an inflation-adjusted peak of $56,080 in 1999. The census figures show a sharp recovery for those at the top of the wage scale as those at the bottom continue to see falls.
The average pay package of an S&P 500 CEO – the US's top 500 companies – last year was $13.7m. For those in charge of S&P small cap companies it was $3.5m.
Chief executive pay is growing fastest for those at the top. The average rise in compensation for CEOs of the Russell 3,000 – which represents about 98% of all public US companies – was 8.47%. For the Russell 1,000 – measuring the top 1,000 companies – it was 15.47%.
~ from US CEOs Break Pay Record as Top 10 Earners Take Home At Least $100m Each by Dominic Rushe ~
It has been a steady drumbeat for the past 6 years. It was on display again during the federal shutdown standoff. Conservatives will have you know that President Barack Obama is a wide-eyed socialist who is making it difficult for the US to compete in the world economy. His policies are constraining American business and, if someone else (a Republican) was at the wheel, American business could really take off.
That, at least, is the scenario these folks are trying to sell. It is so sad that the facts do not buttress their position.
American business is doing more than fine under Obama. In fact, as the author makes clear above, CEOs are setting records! Instead of being constrained, as the conservatives claim, corporate bigwigs are surging ahead with little problem. As it turns out, the Obama presidency is VERY, VERY business-friendly.
But the conservatives are right about one thing -- there IS a group being constrained and that group is the vast majority of Americans. Who will be OUR champion? It certainly is NOT Barack Obama and it is NOT political conservatives as well. By and large, it is also NOT the Democratic Party. So who is left to stick up for us?