Median pay of top US CEOs jumped to record $22.3 million last year

Analysis has shown companies have used inflation as an excuse to unnecessarily raise prices and have pocketed the increased profits.

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SOURCECommon Dreams
Image Credit: CEO Magazine

As workers in a range of industries across the United States demanded fair pay and benefits last year—and in several cases, were forced to strike as companies refused to meet those demands—median compensation for the top chief executives rose to a record-breaking $22.3 million.

The executive compensation research firm Equilar released its annual findings on CEO pay in 2022 Wednesday, showing the 100 highest-paid CEOs of companies with a revenue of $1 billion or more made 7.7% more than in 2021, driven largely by huge stock awards.

Corporations have blamed inflation for higher prices on goods and services, but the supposed financial burden caused by the rising consumer price index has not forced executives to take pay cuts, the study shows—bolstering earlier analysis that has shown companies have used inflation as an excuse to unnecessarily raise prices and have pocketed the increased profits.

With the average U.S. private sector employee earning $1,132 per week last year—up only 3.6% from 2021—the median CEO-to-worker pay ratio rose to 288-to-1. The ratio was 254-to-1 the previous year, an astronomical rise from its level in 1965, when CEOs earned 20 times more than their employees on average.

The Federal Reserve, which on Wednesday raised interest rates for the 10th time to fight the current trend of rising inflation—a tactic that can lead to job losses—has in recent months pushed companies to “get wages down” for workers, even as average pay for workers has remained relatively stagnant and CEO compensation has skyrocketed.

“Just to catch up with what their CEO made in 2018 alone, it would take the typical worker 158 years,” said economist and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich in a video he released about CEO pay on Monday.

Median stock awards for executives went up 20% to $13.8 million last year, allowing CEOs who make headlines by taking low salaries to rake in record-breaking compensation nonetheless.

Hamid Moghadam, chief executive of logistics real estate company Prologis, is among the U.S. CEOs who officially take home a salary of just $1 per year, but his stock awards drove his total compensation up to $48.2 million last year—an increase of 94% over 2021.

Richard Handler, CEO of the investment back Jefferies Group, nearly doubled his 2021 compensation thanks to a one-time “leadership continuity grant” of stock awards that was approved by only 59% of his company’s shareholders. The grant amounted to $25 million and his total compensation was $56.9 million.

On Tuesday, as television writers represented by the Writers Guild of America went on strike due to their inflation-adjusted pay declining by 23% over the past decade, consumer rights watchdog Public Citizen noted that studio executives made hundreds of millions annually in recent years.

“Corporate greed is out of control,” said the group.

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