Executive Excess 1999: A Decade of Executive Excess

1. Over the course of the 1990s, corporate profits rose 108 percent, supporting an S&P 500 Index increase of 224 percent. Who gained? After nearly two decades of real wage declines, workers’ pay has risen 28 percent in the 1990s (before adjusting for inflation). Meanwhile, CEO pay has risen 481 percent.

2. If average production worker pay had risen at the same rate as CEO pay between 1990 and 1998, worker pay would be $110,399 today, rather than the current $29,267. The minimum wage would be $22.08, rather than the current $5.15 per hour.

3. Internationally, CEO salaries are rising in other countries, but they remain dwarfed by U.S. CEO pay. An IPS/UFE survey of seven large foreign corporations found that the CEOs of these firms make between 4 and 27 percent of the amount earned by the average U.S. CEO.

4. An increasing number of business experts refute the claims that exorbitant CEO pay can be justified for economic or other reasons. Recent studies demonstrate that excessive CEO pay instead lowers employee morale, undermines the corporate bottom line, and exerts a burden on taxpayers.

5. The Top 10 lists of executive earners from the decade include many who have reaped their colossal rewards while leading companies involved in illegal behavior, worker exploitation,the marketing of killer products or other less-than-noble activities.

6. The trends of the decade are not irreversible. Numerous institutions and grassroots organizations are working to challenge the growing divide through legislation, investor activism, promoting responsible corporate action, and policies to broaden the ownership of wealth.

United for a Fair Economy is a national, independent, non-partisan organization founded in 1994 to focus public attention and action on economic inequality in the United States—and the implications of inequality on American life and labor. United for a Fair Economy provides educational resources, works with grassroots organizations and supports creative and legislative action to reduce inequality.
The Institute for Policy Studies is an independent center for progressive research and education founded in Washington, DC in 1963. IPS scholar-activists are dedicated to providing progressive politicians, ournalists, academics and activists with exciting policy ideas that can make real change possible.