Matt Krantz, USA TODAY
Companies had lots of reasons to resist a just-approved new rule forcing them to disclose the pay gap between workers and the CEO: 216 to be exact.
The average CEO of
Standard & Poor's 500companies were paid 216 times more than the median employees at their companies, according to a USA TODAY analysis of worker pay data from Glassdoor.com and CEO pay data from S&P Capital IQ. CEO pay was based on the most recent total reported compensation of current CEOs and Glassdoor pay is based on worker-reported data to the popular job search site.
The gap is much larger in several cases. Nine CEOs including
David Zaslav of media company Discovery Communications ( DISCA), Chipotle (CMG) co-CEOs Steven Ells and Montgomery Moran and Larry Merlo of CVS Health (CVS), were paid 800 times or more than the average worker at these companies.
Such pay-gap statistics are staggering and a big reason why the
Securities and Exchange Commission and companies have been battling over a requirement to disclose the CEO-to-worker pay ratio. The rule, approved today, is potentially embarrassing for management and eye opening at the same time for workers curious how their pay stacks up with the top brass.
It's easy for investors and workers' eyes to gloss over when they see annual CEO pay packages worth millions. But comparing that pay to their own drives home just how much larger CEO compensation has gotten relative to the rank and file. The gap has been widening — dramatically.
While the average CEO is paid 216 times more than workers now, they were paid just 20 times more on average in the 1950s, according to a 2013 analysis by Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Using a different methodology, the AFL-CIO found earlier this year that CEOs in the AFL-CIO's pay database earned an average of $13.5 million last year, which is 373 times more than the $36,000 per year paid to the average production and nonsupervisory worker.
No pay gap in this analysis can get near the one at Discovery. Zaslav was paid $156 million during the more recently completed fiscal year, which is 2,282 times greater than the average $68,397 median wage reported by Glassdoor.com.
And Chipotle CEOs were already under fire by some investors for their large pay packages. Both co-CEOs separately pulled down roughly 1,500 times more than the average employee. Ells, for instance, was paid $28.9 million — quite a sum compared with the $18,980 median pay for workers. Moran was paid 1,483 times more than the median employee.
Rounding out the list of four S&P 500 CEOs making more than 1,000 times the average worker is Larry Merlo of CVS Health. He was paid $32.4 million last year, which is 1,054 times more than the median $30,690 paid to employees.
No one is suggesting that a line cook making burritos at Chipotle should be making the same as a co-founder and CEO running the fast-growing and profitable chain. And just because the gap between CEO pay and employee pay is vast, doesn't mean the CEO isn't worth it. Good luck finding many
Starbucks (SBUX) investors who don't think CEO and founder Howard Schultz is worth the $21.5 million he was paid last year — even if that is 994 times greater than the median $21,600 paid to employees. Shares tanked when Schultz stepped down a few years ago, and have raced higher ever since he returned.
This analysis has some caveats, as companies aren't required to disclose median employee pay yet. These number could vary from what companies themselves provide, as many of these caveats will be removed as the rules mandate certain disclosures. The universe of companies in this analysis was limited to 452 companies in the S and P 500 where valid employee and CEO pay was available. Median employee pay is disclosed by employees anonymously on Glassdoor so there could be some self-reporting errors and not all job functions might be represented. The universe was limited only to companies that have at least 30 worker pay reports by employees on Glassdoor who have worked at the company since at least 2010. Only CEOs with pay reported as CEO in the recent fiscal year were included. Total CEO pay includes all pay required to be reported by the SEC, which can include incentive compensation that was paid, but not yet earned.
Nonetheless, the data directionally show just how CEO pay has climbed relative to workers'. These new rules will certainly put ever-increasing CEO pay into a new light — one that will be easier for employees to relate to, for better or worse.
Follow Matt Krantz on Twitter @mattkrantz