CEO Pay Rose 12% in 2010


NEW YORK (MainStreet) — If you were worried about the financial well-being of executives from the nation’s biggest companies, you can finally breathe a sigh of relief.

The median total compensation for the country’s 200 highest paid chief executives was $9.64 million in 2010, an increase of 12% from the year before, according to new data from Equilar, a research group that analyzes executive compensation. This number doesn’t even factor in the tens of millions on top that the average executive receives in pension funds and equity holdings.

By comparison, data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis shows that the average personal income of U.S. workers increased at a significantly slower rate of just 3% in 2010, after having fallen by 1.7% the year before.

For most executives, the base salary was the smallest contributor to their total compensation. The average executive on Equilar’s list earned nearly $2.5 million in cash bonuses and $3.2 million from stock awards while earning $1.1 million in salary.

Of course, for some of the executives on the list, that’s peanuts.

Philippe Dauman, CEO of Viacom, took home an incredible $84 million in 2010, while Ray Irani, CEO of Occidental Petroleum, earned $76 million, making them the two highest paid executives in the country. And for each of these executives, their total compensation was nearly 150% higher than it was the previous year.

Some of the other executives on the list are particularly surprising, given that they presided over companies whose balance sheets or reputations took a hit during the year even though the executives’ salaries remained high.

William Weldon, CEO of Johnson & Johnson, earned $21.6 million in total compensation last year, despite the fact that his company recalled millions of bottles of medications. To be fair, that compensation represented a 5% decrease from the previous year, but it was still generous enough to place him among the 20 most highly paid CEOs in the country.

Meanwhile, the chief executives of several major banks like Wells Fargo and U.S. Bancorp ranked among the top 50, each with total compensations in excess of $16 million. In fact, Richard Davis, CEO of U.S. Bancorp, saw his pay increase by a whopping 143%. Each of these banks have been rumored to be adding new fees in order to make up money lost from recent financial regulations, so the bank’s finances can’t be that bad.

For more on mind-boggling CEO pay, check out MainStreet’s article rounding up some of the most outrageous severance packages paid to CEOs after their companies crashed and burned.

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