By Alan Murray and Geoffrey Smith
September 14, 2017

Good morning.

Are CEOs paid too much? Almost everyone who isn’t one—and even a surprising number who are—think the answer is “yes.” But that hasn’t stopped pay from continuing its steady ascent.

A comprehensive study out this morning from The Conference Board found median pay for CEOs of Russell 3000 firms was $3.8 million last year, up 5.9% from 2015. CEOs of S&P 500 firms earned a median of $11.5 million, up 6.3%.

The biggest driver of that increase was stock awards, which accounted for more than a third of the total compensation of Russell 3000 CEOs and nearly half of the compensation of S&P 500 CEOs—the highest ever. Meanwhile, base salaries declined to less than 15% of total pay. (Fun fact: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson—former CEO of Exxon—took home the second highest base salary of any in the group last year at $3.2 million; Les Moonves of CBS was number one.)

The big shift to stock awards means, in theory, CEOs’ interests are more closely aligned with their shareholders than ever before. But does that make them better CEOs? Harder question to answer.

I was at the Committee for Economic Development’s awards dinner last night, where Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini was given the prize for “business statesmanship.” His comments to the group were characteristically blunt: “The capitalistic model no longer works…If we don’t reinvent it, we will lose it.” He was referring in particular to the need to create well-paying jobs. But executive compensation is clearly also part of that equation.

You can read The Conference Board’s extensive report, which comes out later this morning, here. Others honored at the CED dinner included Arne Sorenson of Marriott, Sandra Peterson of J&J, Mike Petters of Huntington Ingalls, Deanna Mulligan of Guardian and Ronald O’Hanley of State Street Global Advisers.

News below.

Alan Murray



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