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Institute for Policy Studies

Report Info

  • Released September 1, 1999
Global Economy » Report

Executive Excess 1999: A Decade of Executive Excess

The sixth annual CEO pay report reviews the 1990s.

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.

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