Compensation for chief executives jumped 15.7% last year — driven mainly by huge bonus payouts as corporations recovered from the pandemic, according to a new study.
The survey from advisory firm Willis Towers Watson found CEO salaries increased 2% in 2021, but bonuses were on average 39.5% higher for top executives than the year before, when CEO bonuses actually slumped 6.1%.
The analysis is based on publicly disclosed compensation for 500 CEOs in the S&P 1500.
“The fact that CEO pay accelerated in a year when revenue growth, earnings and return to shareholders shone demonstrates that CEOs are being rewarded for performance,” Don Delves, North America practice leader of Executive Compensation at WTW said.
“Last year was a bounce-back year for CEO compensation as well as a good year financially for many companies and shareholders.”
Nevertheless, CEO has once again become a hot-button issue as the pandemic wanes.
Earlier this year, shareholder advisory firm Glass Lewis said Goldman Sachs’ plan to pay a $30 million one-time bonus to Chief Executive David Solomon and a $20 million bonus to Chief Operating Officer John Waldron was “excessive.”
The proxy firm told Goldman shareholders they should vote against the executive pay package that contains the one-time gift bonuses. The challenge was unsuccessful.
Likewise, Glass Lewis recommended shareholders reject a special $52.6 award JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon was given by the board if he stays on for five more years.
Only 31% of shareholders voted in favor of giving Dimon the massive payout of stock options. However, votes on pay are only advisory — not binding — so Dimon is still expected to receive the multi-million dollar award.
Solomon’s pay is in line with his competitors. James Gorman, CEO at Morgan Stanley, also raked in the same amount — $35 million — for 2021. Jamie Dimon’s 2021 total compensation clocked in at $34.5 million.