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terça-feira, abril 11, 2006

Executive pay continues to rise at an astonishing rate

Even here in the heartland, where corporate chieftains do not take home pay packages that are anywhere near those of Hollywood moguls or Wall Street bankers, the pay gap between the boss and the rank-and-file is wide.

New technology and low-cost labor in places like China and India have put downward pressure on the wages and benefits of the average American worker. Executive pay, meanwhile, continues to rise at an astonishing rate.

The average pay for a chief executive increased 27 percent last year, to $11.3 million, according to a survey of 200 large companies by Pearl Meyer & Partners, the compensation practice of Clark Consulting. The median chief executive's pay was somewhat lower, at $8.4 million, for an increase of 10.3 percent over 2004. By contrast, the average wage-earner took home $43,480 in 2004, according to Commerce Department data. And recent wage data from the Labor Department suggest that workers' weekly pay, up 2.9 percent in 2005, failed to keep pace with inflation of 3.3 percent.

Many forces are pushing executive pay into the stratosphere. Huge gains from stock options during the 1990's bull market are one major reason. So is the recruitment of celebrity C.E.O.'s, which has bid up the compensation of all top executives.

Compensation consultants, who are hired to advise boards, are often motivated to produce big paydays for managers. After all, the boss can hand their company lucrative contracts down the road.

Compensation committees, meanwhile, are often reluctant to withhold a bonus or stock award for poor performance. Many big shareholders, such as mutual funds and pension plans, have chosen not to cast votes critical of management. The results have been a growing gap between chief executives and ordinary employees, and often between the boss and managers one layer below.

The average top executive's salary at a big company was more than 170 times the average worker's earnings in 2004, up from a multiple of 68 in 1940, according to a study last year by Carola Frydman, a doctoral candidate at Harvard, and Raven E. Saks, an economist at the Federal Reserve.
The divide between executives and ordinary workers was not always so great. From the mid-1940's through the 1970's, the pay of both groups grew at about the same rate, 1.3 percent, according to the study by Ms. Frydman and Ms. Saks. They analyzed the compensation of top executives at 102 large companies from 1936 to 2003.

But starting in the 1980's, executive compensation began to accelerate. In 1980, the average chief executive made about $1.6 million in today's dollars. By 1990, the figure had risen to $2.7 million; by 2004, it was about $7.6 million, after peaking at almost twice that amount in 2000. In other words, executive pay rose an average of 6.8 percent a year.

At the same time, the growth rate slowed for the average worker's pay. That figure rose to about $43,000 in 2004 from about $36,000 in 1980, an increase of 0.8 percent a year in inflation-adjusted terms.

CORPORATIONS, meanwhile, projected that their own earnings would grow by an average of 11.5 percent a year during that 24-year stretch, by Mr. Bogle's calculations. In reality, he said, they delivered growth of 6 percent a year, slightly less than the growth rate of the entire economy, as measured by gross domestic product.

Chief executives "aren't creating any exceptional value, so you would think that the average compensation of the C.E.O. would grow at the rate of the average worker," Mr. Bogle said. "When you look at it in that way, it is a real problem."

Off to the Races Again, Leaving Many Behind - New York Times


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