As the nation reeled, CEO pay rose 

By Don McIntosh

Times were tough in 2020. Millions of American workers lost jobs as the pandemic hit. But one group did pretty well for themselves: the chief executive officers of America’s biggest corporations. 

CEO pay increased an incredible $712,720 last year on average among S&P 500 companies, according to the latest annual Executive Paywatch report by the national AFL-CIO union federation. The S&P 500 is a stock market index that tracks the 500 biggest U.S. companies that are publicly traded on stock markets. 

Unlike privately-held companies, publicly traded companies have to disclose what they pay top executives. And boy are they doing well. In 2020, CEOs of S&P 500 companies received $15.5 million in compensation, on average. 

Since 2018, publicly traded companies have also had to disclose how much their CEOs make compared to their median employee. For 2020, that was 299 to 1 for S&P 500 CEOs. It’s been going up: In 2019, it was 264 to 1.

C-suite aristocrats

According to the AFL-CIO’s Executive Paywatch report, here’s some of the most extreme S&P 500 CEO pay for 2020:

  • Highest-paid CEO—Robert Antokol, Playtika Holding Corp., $372 million
  • Most outrageous CEO-to-worker pay ratio—Abercrombie & Fitch (6,565 times the median worker pay of $1,820)
  • Most lavishly paid Oregon CEO—Nike -$53.5 million for John Donahoe II
  • Most lavishly paid Washington CEO—T-Mobile -$54.9 million for G Sievert 

Top CEO pay among big union employers:

  • General Motors – $23.7 million for Mary Barra 
  • Kroger Co. – $22.4 million for W. WcMullen 
  • Boeing Company – $21.1 million for David Calhoun
  • AT&T – $21.0 million for John Stankey

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