SURVEY SAYS: Is Your CEO Overpaid?

May 12, 2011 ( - Earlier this week we reported that the median value of salaries, bonuses, and long-term incentive awards for CEOs of 350 major companies in 2010 surged 11% to $9.3 million. 


This week we asked readers a simple question; is YOUR CEO overpaid?  The results?  Not what you might have thought. 

The most common response – 28.1% – said “no.”  Another 10.9% said “no way.” 

However, 14.1% responded “yes”, and another 18.8% said “heck, yes!” 

Rounding out this week’s responses, 12.5% admitted “I have no idea what he/she is paid”, and the rest admitted “I’ve no idea if what he/she is paid is “overpaid.”

…and, of course, we had some interesting – and entertaining – comments.  Here’s a sampling: 


Spread is too large between top executives and entry workers.  We need to increase the "liveable" wage at the bottom, not subsidize the McMansions with increases far in excess of change in CPI in the current economic environment.

Executive Compensation is still out of control.  CEO is a tough job getting tougher but there is no rhyme or reason anybody should receive $50M or $100M and above.  Pay for performance is mostly absent. The are few U.S. CEOs who earn what they are paid.

We wouldn't have to pay for our medical if the CFO's bonus was applied to the medical costs.

But I work for a State and his salary is capped - but he is still grossly overpaid.

We are transitioning to a new CEO and I don't know what the new guys is paid.

Our CEO has to manage 45 lawyers - no way he could ever be overpaid! 

As long as we figure out a way to seriously tax their incomes, who cares? 

The spread between executive pay and worker pay is sickening.  This gargantuan divide can lead CEO's to over-estimate their importance and lose the ability to see their employees as real people.

The fact that he drives a fancy car, lives in a vast estate, and is always flaunting his lavish lifestyle is proof enough.

The position may not be overpaid, especially compared to the median of the top 350, but the person is since he has no interest in the company except for what it can do for his personal resume.  In three years he has become more and more remote and all communications from him or the company focus totally on him.  To me that equates to overpaid since the only product is self-promotion.

Seems most corporate CEOs are overpaid, seeing as they rely on the rest of the employees to deliver the actual work. Hard to believe the highest-paid make this much money, year over year, when most of us would be happy with it as a one-time lottery payout.

I don't believe MY CEO is overpaid.  He not only led us during and out of some tough times to where we are today - successful and growing, he also did not layoff anyone during the downturn.   He instead moved people around within the company for better utilization.

Based on the various scales lambasted by the media our CEO is a "grunt". However, based on a relative scale for what the rest of us make he could be on the hit list too. Storm the Bastille!

"Envy (including Pay Envy) is just as evil as greed.  For those on a high horse preaching about the greed of CEOs, perhaps a little self-examination is in order.  For those demanding a government-imposed limit on CEO pay or a confiscatory tax on ""millionaires and billionaires"", is government greed any less sinful than personal greed?


Everybody is worth exactly what the market will pay them.  If you want to earn as much as your CEO, the only thing that's holding you back is your own ambition."

Our CEO started our company @ 27 years ago; we broke into the S&P 500 last year while successfully fighting a 15-month hostile takeover attempt.  Employees, shareholders and the market appear to believe in him.  It's obviously let him have it all!

I report to the CEO and work with the Board as they set his compensation so I see all the data.  He has a very tough job and no amount of money would make me want to do it.  He's also very, very good at his job.

Our CEO who heads the family corporation is definitely not overpaid.  He is at the beck and call of the customers day and night.  He is always gracious and kind and still can make those tough decisions.  He really has his heart in the business.  He is admired by most employees, the rest just envy him.

Only makes $400,000 and is limited to 4 years with a possible 4 year extension for a total of 8.  Some turnover every 2 years on the board of directors which makes around $186,000 a year each.  However, the board size is 535/536 depending on if there is a tie vote.

I suppose this is what happens when you allow the people who you essentially appoint and pay, decide how much to pay you.  There is little or no basis in reality.  No single individual is worth what most of these guys make, and it's insulting and demoralizing to the rest of a successful team.  The level of greed knows no bounds.

In small companies, CEO's wear many hats and are active at all levels - they earn their pay.  In larger companies they seem to be PR people but are given most of the credit for improvements and all of the big pay increases.  Conversely, they excuse out the downturns and still receive increases based on how bad the downturn would have been if they had nor been there.  Yes - I think these CEO's are overpaid.

As compared to what?  Other CEOs? Professional Athletes? The lowest paid factory worker at our company? 

CEO reports to Boards. Boards are typically comprised of a hodgepodge of business-related people who are serving to get credit on their resumes. They are not compensation consultants and they often tend to not have interest in those details in regards to the CEO's they supervise. There is some logic in not having Boards digging into operations, but I think that they often back away too far from providing oversight to CEO, particularly in regards to pay and benefits. Unless a CEO has retained his/her scruples and morals and wants to do the right thing, it can just lead to power and ego run amok in terms of his/her self interest. Not that I'm a cynic or anything.

I think there should be a limit on officer pay.   They should not make more than 100 times what their lowest paid worker makes.   It used to be that there was not a very large difference between the haves and the have nots and most of us were somewhere in the middle.   Most of us are slipping down to just above the have nots and a medium sized economic catastrophe, such as an unexpected surgery will put us well into the hole.

Hard to believe the highest-paid make this much money, year over year, when most of us would be happy with it as a one-time lottery payout.

But this week’s Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who noted, “My CEO is paid zero.  And he's worth it!” 

Thanks to everyone who participated in our survey!