Median CEO Pay Nears $7 Million in 2009

MoneyThe numbers speak for themselves, and many investors and members of the public won't like them. According to The Wall Street Journal's annual analysis of CEO compensation in America's top 200 companies, their median compensation was $6.95 million. The figure includes the "value of salaries, bonuses, long-term incentives, and grants of stock and stock options."

The payouts happened during a period when national unemployment climbed to 10%, and many companies on the list laid off thousands of workers.Compensation fell by 0.9% compared to 2008, after a 3.8% drop in that year. The best-paid CEOs at least tended to work at companies that posted good shareholder returns.

Shareholders Kept Out

The king of pay in 2009 was Ray Irani of Occidental Petroleum (OXY). He made $52.2 million, according to the survey, up from $49.9 million in 2008. The survey "covers companies with annual revenue of more than $4 billion that filed proxy statements since Oct. 1." All of the results were posted at WSJ.com. Management consultancy Hay Group did much of the work on the study.

The numbers will raise, once again, the issue of how much say shareholders should have in the pay of their companies' CEOs. While annual proxy (DEF 14A) filings include the compensation of the top five officers at all public companies, stockholders aren't allowed to vote on pay. The compensation packages of CEOs and other senior managers are set by compensation committees made up of board members and are then presented to a company's entire board.

Over the years, several movements have pushed to allow shareholders some vote on compensation, but all have fallen short of the mark.

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