Meet the Most Overpaid CEOs in America

CEOs of the world’s biggest companies: They’re nothing like us!

At least, not where their pay grade is concerned. In fact, according to the Economic Policy Institute, on average, CEOs of the country’s top corporations earn a whopping 300 times what their employees earn. “[T]he growth of CEO and executive compensation overall was a major factor driving the doubling of the income shares of the top 1 percent and top 0.1 percent of U.S. households from 1979 to 2007,” EPI wrote in a 2015 report.

In other words, the astounding increases in executive and c-suite pay have helped America become the most unequal country in the developed world. Congrats, guys, we did it! Add this to the list of awful things the U.S. is number one at!

With all this in mind, As You Sow, a nonprofit focused on environmental and social corporate responsibility, made a list of those it identifies as the most overpaid CEOs. The assessment is based on a number of factors, including CEO performance relative to compensation, which the organization suggests, “rewards deals above development and risk rather than return on invested capital (ROIC).” The companies represented by the execs on the list are those “that the majority of retirement funds are invested in." In short, there’s a decent chance your retirement funds are kicking in a few bucks to help these salaries reach their multimillion-dollar peaks.

“CEOs have a difficult job and make decisions daily that could impact millions of lives and should be reasonably rewarded for the productive contributions they make to the economy and society,” Rosanna Landis Weaver, a study lead author, writes. “However, as shown in this report, by every pay-performance measure, many CEOs are being paid entirely too much and that means the process which determines CEO pay is broken.”

Here's the top 25 on the list:


Most Americans are ticked off that CEOs make a whole $1 million a year. Imagine if they knew they were underestimating that by, in lots of cases, tens upon tens of millions of dollars. In Discover Communications CEO David Zaslav's case, it was about $155 million bucks. 

"Paying one individual with excessive wealth unrelated to incentives or results creates a false narrative that such compensation is justified and earned," study authors note. "It undermines essential premises of capitalism: the robust ‘invisible hand’ of the market as well as the confidence of those who entrust capital to third parties. Confusing disclosure coupled with inappropriate comparisons are then used to justify similar packages elsewhere. These systems perpetuate and exaggerate the destabilizing effects of income inequality, and may contribute to the stagnating pay of frontline employees."

And if you're wondering how vast the gulf between CEOs and employees looks when charted on a graph, here's more:


Check out the study and the full list of all 100 overpaid CEOs

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.