To put it lightly, the disparity between CEO compensation and the average wage of rank-and-file employees has become a hot-button issue. In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, regulators, investors, and the general public scrutinized executive compensation packages and balked at what they considered outsized rewards. Payment was loosely, if at all, linked to company performance — an insult to hard-working employees that has been aggravated by stagnant or declining median wages.
In 2010, a provision of the Dodd-Frank Act required public companies to disclose the ratio of CEO compensation to the median for the rest of their employees, but there has been no new data since then.
Thankfully, Bloomberg went through the trouble of assembling a list of the 250 companies with the highest CEO-to-median-worker salary ratio. Topping the list with a dollop of irony is former J.C. Penney (NYSE:JCP) CEO Ron Johnson. Johnson was recently ousted as CEO of the beleaguered retailer, and Bloomberg’s data shows that he was paid spectacularly well for failing to right the ship.
Johnson earned $53.3 million in pay and benefits in the 2012 fiscal year. That is 1,795 times the average worker pay and benefits package of $29,688. If that seems a little staggering, well, that’s because it is. Hindsight is 20-20, but many observers feel like Johnson’s compensation package was absurd, not just because of how outsized it was relative to average worker compensation, but because it failed to do the one thing that could conceivably justify such a gigantic paycheck: inspire Johnson to turn the company around.
To be fair, Johnson’s compensation was so large in part because J.C. Penney’s board asked him to walk away from nearly $80 million in unvested Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) stock.
Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (NYSE:ANF) claims the number two position on the list. According to Bloomberg’s data, CEO Michael Jeffries earned total pay and benefits of $48.1 million in the 2012 fiscal year, 1,640 times the average pay and benefits package of $29,310.
Like J.C. Penney — although not to nearly such a dramatic degree – Abercrombie & Fitch has had some setbacks recently. The company’s stock is down 6.5 percent over the past 52-week period, but has largely healed since hitting lows in August.
Number four on the list (skipping over number three) is Oracle Corp. (NASDAQ:ORCL). Bloomberg’s data puts CEO Larry Ellison’s 2012 pay and benefits at $96.2 million, which is 1,287 times higher than the average worker pay and benefits package of $74,693.
Ellison’s compensation may be high, but it also seems more reasonable when compared against others at the top of the list. Ellison not only co-founded the company, but has been instrumental in its tremendous success over the years.
Number five on Bloomberg’s list is Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) CEO Howard Schultz, who earned $28.9 million in pay and compensation in 2012. Relative to the size of the compensation packages for other CEOS, Schultz’s is relatively low. However, it is still 1,135 times the rank-and-file compensation package of $25,463.
A spokesman for the company told Bloomberg that “Howard’s pay reflects both competitive considerations and the unique value of his leadership, demonstrated in our record 2012 results and 38 percent total shareholder return.”
Year-over-year performance on the stock chart is currently underwhelming, but Starbucks has proven itself to be a long-term winner under Schultz’s leadership.
Clocking in at number six is CBS Corp. (NYSE:CBS). Its CEO, Leslie Moonves, was awarded a pay and benefits package of $69.9 million in the 2011 fiscal year, according to Bloomberg’s data. This was 1,111 times the average worker pay and benefits package of $62,930.
However, CBS, unlike most of the other companies at the top of the list, has been on a tear over the past 52 weeks. The stock is up nearly 37 percent on the year.