As investors pressure companies to connect executive compensation to shareholder returns, the salaries of American chief executive officers are becoming increasingly dependent on company performance, according to the Wall Street Journal's annual pay survey released Wednesday. Among 300 top CEOs, the top 10 performers were all paid more than last year, while 8 of the the 10 worst performers saw pay cuts, according to the survey.
However, several of the 10 top paid CEOs received increases despite a mediocre year of returns. Viacom Inc.'s Philippe Dauman and General Electric Co.'s Jeff Immelt made $44.3 million and $37.3 million, respectively, despite negative company performance, according to the survey. CBS also recorded losses in 2014, but the compensation of its CEO, Les Moonves, only decreased to $57.2 million, which still made him the No. 5 highest-paid CEO in the country.
Liberty Global, a telecommunications company, had the highest-paid CEO, Michael T. Fries. This comes following a 34.5 percent growth in shareholder returns in the past three years, reports the Wall Street Journal. The majority of his compensation came from stock awards. The survey named Google's Larry Page the lowest-paid CEO, as he receives a total annual pay of $1. Berkshire Hathaway's Warren Buffett, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Amazon's Jeffrey Bezos also were among the 10 lowest paid CEOs, with their income deriving from returns on stock holdings.
Ursula Burns, the CEO of Xerox, saw the biggest pay increase in 2014, earning $22.2 million -- nearly 800 percent more than she earned in 2013, according to the survey -- while Stephen Luczo of Seagate Technology had his pay decreased 86.8 percent despite a 31.6 percent shareholder growth. The median total compensation for CEOs in 2014 grew 13.5 percent from the year before, according to the survey.
The Economic Policy Institute revealed Monday that the average total compensation of CEOs at the 350 largest firms was $16.3 million in 2014, roughly 303 times the average pay of their workers, reports CNN. The divide between CEO and worker pay has increased every year since 2009, when CEO salaries dropped to 196 times the average work, according to the report. While CEO pay has risen 997 percent since 1978, the average employee pay has grown 10.9 percent.