Financial reporter Nathaniel Popper made the front of the New York Times Sunday Business section using the language of Occupy Wall Street, in a populist crusade against high chief executive pay disguised as a news story: "C.E.O. Pay, Rising Despite the Din."
Popper talked in familiar terms of "revolution," "the 99 percent," and the "nation’s have-a-lots" versus "the have-lesses," and the term "hyperwealth," delivered without quotes, which seems to be code for "earning more than the Times thinks you should be."
You call this a revolution?
Probably the most-heard complaint about big business these days, one seemingly tailored for the 99 percent, is how much money corporate C.E.O.’s routinely pull down. Many ordinary Americans probably cheered when stockholders -- that is, the people who actually own public companies -- finally began to say, “Enough.”
Despite a lot of noise from shareholders and a few victories at big names like Citigroup and Hewlett-Packard, executive pay just keeps climbing.
Yes, some corporate boards seem to be listening to shareholders, particularly on contentious issues like the seven-figure cash bonuses that helped define hyperwealth during the boom. Since the bust, corporate America on the whole has moved to tie executive pay more closely to long-term performance by skewing executive paychecks more toward restricted stock, which can’t be sold for years.
But rewards at the top are still rich -- and getting richer. Now that 2011 proxy statements have been filed, the extent of executive pay last year has finally become clear. Median pay of the nation’s 200 top-paid C.E.O.’s was $14.5 million, according to a study conducted for The New York Times by Equilar, a compensation data firm based in Redwood City, Calif. The median pay raise among those C.E.O.’s was 5 percent. (The full list is available here.)
That 5 percent raise is smaller than last year’s. But it comes at a time of stubbornly high unemployment and declining wealth for many ordinary Americans. Even corporate pay experts say that this is hardly the kind of change that will quell anger over the nation’s have-a-lots by the have-lesses, particularly in an election year.
The paper also devoted two full pages to a chart compiled for the paper on the pay of chief executives in 2011.