U.S. consumer, financial and technology companies slashed bonuses for their chief executives by more than half in 2009, a leading firm that tracks pay data said on Tuesday, as companies moved to more closely tie executive pay to performance.

Equilar, which examines compensation practices, said preliminary data from corporate proxy filings show that the median CEO bonus payments fell 21.9 percent to $689,000 in 2009 from $882,000 in 2008.

The median reflected the midpoint of 180 companies sampled for Equilar's 2010 Bonus Plan Design report. The California-based company said it plans an update next week as more companies disclose pay data for 2009.

Executive compensation has been a front-burner topic, especially in the banking industry, since hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money was committed to bail out the financial services and auto industries.

Many politicians, regulators and governance critics have discussed ways to rein in excessive compensation, while ensuring that companies can offer competitive pay packages.

The Equilar report shows that certain industries may already be slashing pay on their own, at least for their top executives.

Consumer companies cut the median CEO pay by 50.8 percent, financial companies by 51.1 percent, and technology companies by 59.2 percent, it said.

(Reporting by Steve Eder and Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Richard Chang)