Will measures like these rein in excessive executive rewards? Will they begin to significantly narrow the corporate pay gap? That appears doubtful. The UK, for instance, has had a “say on pay” provision on the books since 2002, and that provision has not prevented a continuing executive pay spiral. Despite the recession, UK executive compensation sits substantially above pre-“say on pay” levels. To bring executive pay back down to mid-20th century levels, we need reforms that cut to the quick, that recognize the dangers banks and major corporations create when they dangle oversized rewards for executive “performance.” Some reforms that would move us in that direction are now pending in Congress. Others have yet to make their way onto the congressional docket.
CEOs of the 50 firms that have laid off the most workers since the onset of the economic crisis took home 42 percent more pay in 2009 than their peers at S&P 500 firms, according to “CEO Pay and the Great Recession,” the 17th in a series of annual Executive Excess reports from the Institute for Policy Studies.
“Our findings illustrate the great unfairness of the Great Recession,” says Sarah Anderson, lead author on the Institute study. “CEOs are squeezing workers to boost short-term profits and fatten their own paychecks.”
The 50 top CEO layoff leaders received $12 million on average in 2009, compared to the S&P 500 average of $8.5 million. Each of the corporations surveyed laid off at least 3,000 workers between November 2008 and April 2010. Seventy-two percent of the firms announced mass layoffs at a time of positive earnings reports.