Reflation celebration for corporate executives in Arizona and Georgia

The spotlight is shining bright these days on executive pay. I have cited several stories regarding the tremendous increases in executive pay that occurred in 2010 that resoundingly reversed (and then some) stagnation and sometimes declines in executive pay in 2009. (See for example, “Pay rises 13% for CEOs at Canada’s top 100 public companies” and “CEOs recover all the pay they lost during the recession” or review articles under the category “Salaries“).

This weekend, I noted two state-based stories on executive pay that demonstrated how dramatic a turn-around has occurred in the pay for specific executives.

In “Lucrative paydays for corporate chiefs“, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution reports:

“Here’s one measure of just how good it was: $232.9 million.

That’s the total compensation that the chief executives at Georgia’s 25 most-valuable public companies took home last year, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s review of the annual disclosures required by the Securities and Exchange Commission…

Here’s another measure of just how lucrative 2010 was: 29 percent. That’s the average pay raise the 25 executives saw last year.”

In “Arizona CEO’s median compensation surged 48% in 2010“, The Arizona Republic reports:

“Sparked by rising profits and rebounding stock prices, the median compensation for chief executive officers and chairmen at Arizona-based public companies surged 48 percent in 2010, hitting a statewide record of $1.54 million.

Plus, hefty pay packages were shared more broadly by other top officials at 43 corporations based in the state. Some 74 senior executives below the CEO level earned at least $750,000, up from 63 who earned that much the year before.”

In both cases, compensation swelled partially thanks to a strong rebound in the stock market, meaning that corporate executives have greatly benefited from the reflation generated by economic stimulus and/or monetary easing. As I have mentioned in previous posts, strong corporate profits have supported all forms of equity-based wealth and effectively beat back the ghosts of deflation in 2010.

Of course, the huge irony is that poor employment reports and stagnating personal income data tell a different story. For example, after Friday’s awful jobs report and the on-going dire news coming from the housing market, you would be excused for assuming the entire country had dipped back into a poverty-stricken recession. Such is definitely not the case for the big winners of 2010.

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Pay rises 13% for CEOs at Canada’s top 100 public companies

In “Back in the green: CEO pay jumps 13 per cent“, Globe and Mail reports that CEOs at Canada’s top 100 public companies received average pay raises of 13% in 2010. This comes on the heels of dismal pay performance in 2009 and 2010 where pay was essentially flat. 2010’s pay hikes is similar to the double-digit pay gains Canada’s CEO typically experienced before the recession.

The article includes an interesting discussion of “performance share units” which calibrates performance-based pay to the company’s relative performance to its peers. This method prevents pay hikes from general market forces that the CEO does not control, like the rising price of oil.


CEOs recover all the pay they lost during the recession

America’s CEOs have been rewarded for performance that has driven corporate profits to record levels.

From AP:

“The typical pay package for the head of a company in the Standard & Poor’s 500 was $9 million in 2010, according to an analysis by The Associated Press using data provided by Equilar, an executive compensation research firm. That was 24 percent higher than a year earlier, reversing two years of declines.”

“Executives were showered with more pay of all types — salaries, bonuses, stock, options and perks. The biggest gains came in cash bonuses: Two-thirds of executives got a bigger one than they had in 2009, some more than three times as big.”

This situation presents an odd dichotomy. The housing market remains moribund and likely double-dipped, the unemployment rate and jobless situation has shown little improvement in many, many months. Yet, corporate profits and CEO pay could not be better. Even as the Federal Reserve seeks to keep monetary policy loose and accomodative, I suspect the current momentum will continue as companies continue to make hay with what they’ve got: more jobless profits…

As is said when the Fed prints money, it has to go somewhere. We have found one more resting spot for that fresh cash!


Tuition up and top salaries secure on college campuses

This is a good news/bad news tale of inflation.

The good news is that the salaries and benefits for college presidents at public universities held steady the last academic year (2009-2010) as reported by AJC.com in “Study: Recession hasn’t cut college president salaries“. This was no easy feat given the generous compensation:

“The median total compensation for 185 presidents running the country’s largest public research universities was $440,487. About one-third earned more than $500,000 and the 10 highest earned more than $725,000 each. Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee received $1.8 million, the highest.”

Of course, staying flat is nothing compared to the 27% hike in median pay for the nation’s CEOs in 2010, but those increases only restored CEOs to pre-recession levels. A University of Georgia spokesman defended the pay for presidents by pointing out the limited supply of qualified candidates for the job.

The bad news about inflation on college campuses is that tuition increased. Students paid a whopping 25% more in tuition in the last academic year. Assuming most of them will not grow up to be CEOs, they can probably look forward to working in a company where their salaries will not keep pace with the head honcho. (The average compensation package increased 2.1% last year).