How Companies Actually Decide What to Pay CEOs – The Atlantic

I know—for over 20 years, I helped craft some extremely generous executive-compensation packages.

Source: How Companies Actually Decide What to Pay CEOs – The Atlantic, by Steven Clifford, author of The CEO Pay Machine: How It Trashes America and How to Stop It

In 2014, 500 of the highest-paid senior executives at U.S. companies made nearly 1,000 times as much money as the average American worker, after taking into account salary, bonuses, and stock-based compensation. … Through the 1970s—when the ratio of CEOs’ pay to that of the average worker was much lower, at somewhere between 20:1 and 30:1—the lodestar was “internal equity,” or how an executive’s pay compared with that of other employees in the company. A nascent industry, executive-compensation consulting, changed this. Consultants recommended switching to “external equity,” meaning compensation would be based on what other CEOs were paid.

every board I have ever sat on or researched benchmarked itself at the 50th, 75th, or 90th percentile, therefore targeting CEO pay at similarly exalted levels. Benchmarking below the 50th percentile says, We are a lousy company and don’t even aspire to be better. So in this sense all CEOs are above average: To be benchmarked at or above the 50th percentile, they need not do anything other than report to a board that considers its own company exceptional.