CEO Pay Surges In 2020 Despite Pandemic Suffering

As many Americans struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic, median pay for CEOs at more than 300 of the nation’s largest public companies zoomed to $13.7 million, up from $12.8 million a year earlier, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis.

CEO compensation kept climbing, even in industries laid low by the pandemic and at companies where chief executives voluntarily gave up some of their salaries, according to the Journal, which analyzed data for S&P 500 companies via research firm MyLogIQ.

The median CEO pay increase was nearly 15%, the analysis found, using figures reported by companies in their regulatory filings. Pay dropped last year for some CEOs in the Journal’s analysis. But it rose for 206 of the 322 CEOs. Company performance wasn’t necessarily connected to pay hikes. 

Even though Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings lost $4 billion last year, CEO Frank Del Rio’s pay doubled to $36.4 million, the Journal reported. And the CEO of institutional caterer Aramark, who gave up part of his salary during the pandemic, reaped $27.1 million in 2020 because the board bumped his bonus targets.

CEOs of 350 large publicly traded companies in 2019 earned an average 320 times more than the typical worker in the same company, according to the Economic Policy Institute. In 1989, the average ratio was 61-to-1.

It’s not just pay that’s out of whack. A worker at Missouri’s for-profit Research Medical Center in Kansas City was named employee of the month and given a $6 cafeteria coupon as a “bonus” last year after surviving COVID-19. The CEO of the hospital’s parent company was earning $30 million a year. 

The coupon, worker Jamelle Brown told NBC last week, “stung me to the bone.”