How companies explain their C.E.O.s’ big pay packages in the pandemic.

The Highest-Paid Chief Executives Last Year

Note: Compensation is tallied from proxy filings as of Friday. Includes salary, stock grants, bonuses and other benefits. John Legere, James Murren and Randall Stephenson stepped down from their chief executive roles in 2020. Netflix has co-chief executives. Liberty Media is the parent company for Formula 1, the Atlanta Braves and Liberty SiriusXM.

Source: Equilar

By The New York Times

The gap between executive compensation and average worker pay has been growing for decades. Chief executives of big companies now make, on average, 320 times as much as their typical worker, according to the Economic Policy Institute. In 1989, that ratio was 61 to 1.

The pandemic compounded these disparities, as hundreds of companies awarded their leaders pay packages worth significantly more than most Americans will make in their entire lives, David Gelles reports for The New York Times.

In the course of his reporting, corporate public relations teams employed various tactics to justify their bosses’ big paydays:

A Hilton spokesman stressed that the figure in its latest proxy filing did not represent take-home pay for Chris Nassetta, because the company restructured several stock awards. “Said directly, Chris did not take home $55.9 million in 2020,” the spokesman said. “Chris’s actual pay was closer to $20.1 million.” Hilton lost $720 million last year.

Boeing wanted to make clear how much money Dave Calhoun “voluntarily elected to forgo to support the company through the Covid-19 pandemic” — some $3.6 million, according to a spokesman. Nonetheless, Mr. Calhoun was awarded $21.1 million last year, while Boeing lost $12 billion.

Starbucks, which awarded Kevin Johnson $14.7 million, was among many companies making the case that their chief executive was essential to future success. “Continuity in Kevin’s role is particularly vital to Starbucks at this time,” said Mary Dillon, a member of the compensation committee. The company made a $930 million profit in its latest fiscal year, down three-quarters from the previous year.

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