I am heartened that the SEC is finally adopting its CEO pay ratio disclosure rule.
EPI has been studying CEO pay and worker pay for more than 20 years. The compensation of top CEOs grew 997 percent from 1978 to 2014, while compensation for the typical worker grew only 10.2 percent. Importantly, the wages of the top 0.1 percent—the best-paid sliver of employees—grew less than 300 percent. This confirms that CEO pay has not risen as part of a general rise of pay of the “most skilled” employees. Rather, CEO pay has grown far more than other highly paid employees and exists in a league of its own. It’s clear that this is not simply CEOs being fairly compensated for making firms more productive.
The growth of CEO and executive compensation overall was a major factor driving the doubling of the income shares of the top 1.0 percent and top 0.1 percent of U.S. households from 1979 to 2007. Income growth since 2007 has also been very unbalanced as profits have reached record highs and, correspondingly, the stock market has boomed while the wages of most workers (and their families’ incomes) have declined over the recovery. The new CEO pay ratio rule will shed important light on this issue. This is an important advance which will be useful to investors, workers, and policymakers. The delay shows the power of corporate lobbyists, but the finalizing of the rule is a win for the American people.
EPI President Lawrence Mishel is available for comment. Read more about CEO pay on EPI.org.