By Geoffrey Smith
June 22, 2017

Good morning.

According to Equilar, median pay for the CEOs of the largest 500 U.S. companies by revenue rose 6.1% last year to $11 million, the biggest increase in the 17 years Equilar has been tracking that metric. For comparison the Bureau of Labor Statistics said median earnings for U.S. workers rose 2.8%. The multiple of one to the other now stands at 254 times, up from 247 times last year, according to BLS data.

I don’t intend to turn this newsletter into the editorial page of Pravda in Alan’s absence, but it seems legitimate to highlight the apparent discrepancy between this figure and what seems to be the increasingly frequent expression of concern from business leaders about inequality, social contracts and the like. Recognizing the phenomenon of constantly widening inequality is a necessary and welcome start, but only that.

It shouldn’t need to be said that this trend, in a country of universal suffrage, is unsustainable. The income gap widened during the boom, paused only briefly (and by no means universally) during the recession, and it continues to widen through this mature if historically anaemic recovery. To those who believe in the ability of markets to correct themselves over time—under what set of macro circumstances does it revert to the mean?

Or, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan (who was admittedly talking about something entirely different): “If not now—when? If not us—who?”

Of course, no data point encompasses all the various nuances of companies’ individual compensation plans. Especially not when a variable like the stock market plays such a role in setting compensation levels. But it does seem reasonable to expect a company that can sequence genes, or make cars drive by themselves, or tell an individual where he is on the planet within a 10-yard margin of error in real time, to be able to calculate and disclose a simple CEO-to-median wage ratio.

Doesn’t it?

News below.

Geoffrey Smith

(Alan Murray is taking a hard-earned break and will return on Monday.)


You May Like