Six CEO pay packages that explain soaring executive pay

FAN Editor

As economic uncertainty roils the country, the income gap between top executives and everyday employees continues to grow ever wider.

This year, thanks to a rule in the 2010 Dodd-Frank banking regulation law, publicly traded corporations in the United States had to begin comparing the pay of their chief executives to the median compensation of other employees at the company. The results, collected in the Equilar 200 Highest-Paid C.E.O. Rankings, were predictably striking.

Here are six pay packages that stand out. Click here to view the full list.

Frank Bisignano, C.E.O. of First Data

Total Reported Compensation: $102,210,396
Pay Ratio: 2,028

Mr. Bisignano was the second-highest paid chief executive in the country this year, and one of only two on the Equilar list to earn more than $100 million.

Mr. Bisignano is routinely granted humongous pay packages by his board of directors. He was awarded $51.6 million in 2015.

The median salary at First Data, which processes credit-card transactions, was $50,406, resulting in one of the highest pay ratios — 2,028 — on the Equilar list.

First Data, which did not reply to requests for comment, promotes an employee-ownership model in which stock is a part of every employee’s compensation, and “everyone is a shareholder and is rewarded as the company performs better.”

That doesn’t mean the equity is evenly distributed. “Some people are getting more equity than others,” said Louis Hyman, a business historian at Cornell University. “It seems like another way to get people to work harder for a smaller cut of the pie.”

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The Highest-Paid C.E.O.s in 2017

Safra Catz and Mark Hurd, co-C.E.O.s of Oracle

Total Reported Compensation: $40,832,279 (Mr. Hurd) and $40,729,965 (Ms. Catz)
Pay Ratio: N/A

Oracle has not one, but two chief executives — and it compensates each of them quite generously. Safra Catz and Mark Hurd, the technology company’s co-C.E.O.s, were each awarded about $41 million last year. Taken together, their combined pay package of $82 million would amount to the third largest of the year.

Ms. Catz is one of the few chief executives of a big publicly-traded company to openly support President Donald J. Trump, and has reportedly been considered for an administration job in recent months. She was also the highest-paid female chief executive last year, and one of a dwindling number of women occupying the highest ranks of corporate America.

Mr. Hurd, a longtime technology executive, has criticized the Trump administration’s immigration policies, and could be in line to take sole control of Oracle in the event that Ms. Catz takes a government job.

Oracle did not report a median employee salary or a pay ratio because its fiscal year had not ended. As is typical with most C.E.O. packages, the bulk of the pay for Ms. Catz and Mr. Hurd was composed of stock awards and stock options. Oracle declined to comment.

Douglas McMillon, C.E.O. of Walmart

Total Reported Compensation: $22,179,961
Pay Ratio: 1,188

Walmart employs 1.5 million people in the United States, making it by far the country’s largest private employer.

Long a target for critics who say it underpays its workers, Walmart has in recent years made efforts to change this narrative. In January, the company said it would raise its starting minimum wage to $11 an hour, offer employees a onetime cash bonus, and expand parental leave.

“We have invested billions in our associates the past few years to increase wages and develop training and education programs to build a career where each job can serve as a pathway to greater opportunity,” Randy Hargrove, a company spokesman, said in an email, after this article was published. “Walmart has represented a ladder of opportunity since we started the business, and we want to make sure that’s the case going forward everywhere we operate including in the U.S.”

The efforts have only helped so much. The median employee at Walmart made $19,177 last year. In that time, Mr. McMillon made more than $22 million, resulting in a pay ratio of 1,188.

“At a time when too many Walmart workers face stagnant wages and tens of thousands still qualify for public assistance, is paying your C.E.O. 1,188 times the median employee really the best investment for Walmart?” said Randy Parraz, director of Making Change at Walmart, a labor group. “Instead of pursuing billion-dollar stock buybacks and million-dollar C.E.O. payouts, Walmart needs to make the necessary investment to eradicate poverty within and among its own work force.”

Stephen Wynn, former C.E.O. of Wynn Resorts

Total Reported Compensation: $34,522,695
Pay Ratio: 909

In January, Steve Wynn, the casino mogul, was accused of decades of sexual abuse. Within two weeks, he had resigned, and in March, he agreed to sell his stake in the company.

Mr. Wynn remains an extremely wealthy man, and was among the highest-paid chief executives in the country last year. He is worth about $3 billion, according to Forbes, and even though he will not receive severance pay, he was awarded $34.5 million last year — an amount that the median employee at his company would have to work more than 900 years to earn.

Michael Weaver, a Wynn spokesman, pointed out that shareholders fared well last year despite the allegations against Mr. Wynn.

“Steve Wynn’s 2017 compensation should be considered in comparison to the 97 percent shareholder return that same year,” he said in an email.

There is another wrinkle in Mr. Wynn’s pay package worth noting. Mr. Wynn, a major Republican donor, appears to have taken advantage of changes to the tax law. Wynn Resorts paid eligible employees their 2017 bonuses in December, rather than in the beginning of 2018, according to Equilar. Executives who got those bonuses owed more taxes that year, but the company offered them tax equalization payments to cover the charges. The net result of this maneuvering is likely to save the company money on this year’s tax bill, according to Equilar.

Margaret Georgiadis, former C.E.O. of Mattel

Total Reported Compensation: $31,275,289
Pay Ratio: 4,987

Ms. Georgiadis, a former Google executive, arrived at Mattel with great fanfare last year, a technology executive recruited to turn around a toy business being disrupted by online shopping.

It didn’t work out so well. Mattel shares lost about half their value last year, and last month, Ms. Georgiadis left the company. She is now the chief executive of, the genealogy website.

Because it operates its own factories overseas, Mattel reported one of the highest pay ratios among companies on the Equilar list, with Ms. Georgiadis being awarded a whopping 4,987 times the median employee’s pay.

“More than half of Mattel’s worldwide employee base consists of manufacturing plant workers in Asia and elsewhere, which of course significantly impacts our median employee pay rate,” said Alex Clark, a company spokesman.

As a result of her departure, Ms. Georgiadis forfeited most of her reported compensation, which was in the form of stock awards and options that had not yet realized or vested. Instead, Mattel said Ms. Georgiadis earned about $10.8 million last year.

Using Ms. Georgiadis’s actual pay from last year would lower the company’s pay ratio somewhat, but it would still be quite high. To earn the $10.8 million Ms. Georgiadis took home last year, the median Mattel employee would have to work for 1,722 years.

Hervé Hoppenot, C.E.O. of Incyte

Total Reported Compensation: $16,087,031
Pay Ratio: 64

Incyte, a biotechnology company with just one cancer drug on the market in the United States, had the lowest pay ratio on the Equilar list.

Given the company’s generous median salary of $253,015 and the $16.1 million awarded to Mr. Hoppenot, the chief executive, the company’s pay ratio was 64 to 1 — positively modest compared with companies like Walmart and Mattel.

But look more closely, and the comparison falls flat. Incyte employs just about 1,000 people, most of them high-paid scientists and executives. The manufacturing and distribution of their products is mostly handled by contractors who do not appear on the payroll.

It’s a model popular with other drug companies on the Equilar list. Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Vertex Pharmaceuticals and BioMarin Pharmaceutical also had relatively low pay ratios and relatively high median salaries.

Incyte did not reply to requests for comment.

“Their median pay is a quarter of a million dollars a year,” Mr. Hyman said. “You think to yourself, ‘That’s not so bad.’ But then you realize that all of their manufacturing is outsourced.”

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