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AP dumps a giant bucket of malaise on us this morning by reporting how the average CEO earned $9.6 million last year. It's an increase of more than 6% over 2010, and the highest CEO pay rate since 2006.
Corporate profits were up last year, which may explain part of the pay increase. But stockholders also scored a victory of sorts in making companies convert more CEO pay from cash to stock options as a way to spur CEO performance. That's why CEO stock awards rose 11% between 2010 and 2011, with the average U.S. CEO receiving $3.6 million worth of stock options. Cash bonuses, meanwhile, dropped 7% to $2 million.
Still, payday is pretty good for the average, big-time CEO. The Washington Post lists last year's top 50 corporate earners. Topping the list is David Simon, CEO of Simon Property Group, who earned $137.2 million last year -- a whopping increase of 458% -- and now the company's shareholders seem to be saying enough already.
Don't get me wrong; I'm all for business growth and entrepreneurship, but it would just be nice to see how CEO performance is intrinsically linked to such enormous pay packages when far too many talented people are still out of work, companies are still laying off workers, and the average, superhero-wannabe U.S. employee will earn $47,000 this year. I want to know that the average corporate CEO is working his or her tail off 24/7/365 for that kind of dosh, and I'm not talking about working up plans for the next round of layoffs. I'll take the innovation combo plate that comes with a generous side of new product sales, rapid job growth and shareholder ROI, please. And hold the ego.
As they say in the PR business, the optics aren't optimal. In other words, it doesn't look very good. But maybe that's just me. Have a good day.