Despite pared-down perks for corporate America, executives are getting paid more than ever and still get to travel in style.
“Companies are really digging in on identifying what areas it makes sense to focus their benefits programs,” said Robert Newbury, director at pay consulting firm Towers Watson, according to Reuters.
“You will see companies spend less on areas that raise red flags with investors,” he said.
At the Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. (NYSE:CMG.) investor meeting last week 77 percent of shareholder votes opposed the compensation terms and Abercrombie & Fitch Co. announced earlier this month it had lowered CEO compensation by 72 percent, according to a Bloomberg report.
Even Gregg Steinhafel, former Chief Executive Officer at Target Corp. (NYSE: TGT) saw his pay cut from $20.6 million in 2012 to $13 million last year, after investors voiced concern about high pay levels.
Amid criticism, companies have started paying their executives with stock options, rather than cash bonuses. But in many cases this has raised their overall compensation more than ever, buoyed by a strong market.
A report from the Associated Press finds average U.S. CEO pay topped $10 million last year, passing eight figures for the first time. In 2013, CEOs made about 257 times the average worker’s salary, up from 181 times in 2009. The average head of a large company takes home $10.5 million, up 8.8 percent from the $9.6 million average a year earlier.
Meanwhile, even more companies are giving their execs travel perks, allowing them to use corporate jets for personal trips, which can be worth almost as much as their annual salaries, according to The Wall Street Journal. Last year CEOs at 142 companies did this, up from 122 the previous year.
WSJ found the executive who got the most out of personal flight perks was Myron E. "Mike" Ullman III, head of J.C. Penney Co. (NYSE:JCP.) While company stock tumbled 57 percent in 2013, he took $913,488 worth of personal trips, topping his salary. CBS Corp. (NYSE: CBS) head Leslie Moonves managed to log $533,527 in corporate jet travel last year as well.
One healthcare executive took $677,113 worth of flights last year, which is about half his salary. The chief executive at Dollar General Corp. (NYSE:DG) last year used the company’s corporate jet to fly from Tennessee to California regularly to visit his second home, in trips adding up to $481,658.
About 60 percent of companies that filed disclosures in 2013 raise spending on “other compensation,” which can include everything from company aircraft to more mundane tax planning assistance, according to Reuters.