CEOs Took a Massive Pay Cut Last Year

Chipotle Mexican Grill Chief Executive Officer Steve Ells Interview
Photograph by Bloomberg via Getty Images

Last month, Fortune reported that the compensation of Chipotle co-CEOs Steve Ells and Monty Moran had been cut by more than half amid the burrito chain’s health scares.

It turns out they weren’t the only ones.

A new analysis by The Wall Street Journal shows that pay for CEOs of the largest U.S. companies plummeted last year. In fact, it saw the sharpest drop since the financial crisis as weaker corporate performance sacked cash bonuses and accounting regulation hampered pension growth.

At nearly 300 large public companies, median compensation for CEOs fell 3.8% last year, from $11.2 million to $10.8 million. Half of those executives saw their pay decrease or rise by less than 1%.


The decline is attributable, in large part, to slow growth in pension values—tweaks to assumptions about interest rate and life spans had inflated them the prior year—and underwhelming corporate performance. At the companies the Journal studied, shareholder return was flat in the year pay was reported versus 17% the year earlier.

There are some notable names who join Ells and Moran of Chipotle (CMG) on the list of execs who saw their compensation decline. 3M (MMM) CEO Inge Thulin’s pay fell 3.4% to $19.4 million. Johnson & Johnson’s Alex Gorsky’s $23.8 million represents a 4.8% hit. American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault received a 3.5% pay cut to $22 million, and the compensation of Hess Corp. (HES) CEO John Hess shrank by a staggering 42.7% from $22.5 million in 2014 to $12.9 million in 2015.

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