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Tuesday, 02 July 2013 09:54

Oracle CEO Earns Hourly What Average US Worker Makes in a Year

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fatcat7 2Every hour, Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle, earns in total compensation the equivalent of the average US salary of an American worker, according to CorpWatch.org.

Just try to fathom that.  Okay, you are punching a clock at a warehouse and filling orders for Amazon or another company and watching the clock to see when your coffee break is at 10:30.  So it's 9:30 am and you anxiously watch the minute hand tick until it swings that one last notch to 10:30.  In that time period of just one hour, Ellison has earned $45,790.

As CorpWatch details, with information based on a New York Times (NYT) article,

U.S. corporate CEO salaries rose 16 percent in 2012 according to a new report from research firm Equilar. Top salary: Larry Ellison of Oracle - over $96 million. Top exit bonus: James Mulva of ConocoPhillips - $156 million.

Average salary for the CEOs of the top 200 U.S. companies with revenue of over $1 billion was $5.3 million. The big money, however, is paid out in stock and options which added another $9 million to the median compensation package for the CEOs.

Worst off were the workers at these companies whose median pay is now at a historic low compared to the CEOs. In 1965, according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute, the average CEO made 20 times the average worker. Now the ratio is 273 to 1.

In plain English that means that in about a day and a half, your big corporation CEO makes the equivalent of a yearly worker's salary. Moreover, we are talking about an average US salary here, not a median salary, which would be much lower (given that the average -- mean -- salary includes large white collar pay checks of the upper class).  The ratio of a large corporate CEO's total compensation would be, in many cases, 1000 or more times the yearly salary of a minimum wage worker.  And minimum wage workers are increasing not decreasing in the US.

The NYT article that CorpWatch references in its online piece is entitled, "An Unstoppable Climb in C.E.O. Pay." That Business Section analysis by Gretchen Morgenson laments not so much the disparity in pay between C.E.O.'s and workers, but that many C.E.O.'s are lavishly compensated with salaries, stock options, bonuses and other financial remuneration while overseeing underperforming corporations.

Morgenson concludes her article with a longing for a new age of C.E.O. accountability:

Obviously, the pace of change in corporate pay practices has been glacial, even as the growth in pay has exploded. Dysfunctional performance metrics are a root cause, experts say.

“How much of the pay is driven by right time, right place, and how much is driven by truly sustained, multiyear performance that’s still in place ‘X’ years out?” [Brian] Foley [an independent compensation consultant] said. “What I would like to see is not just performance criteria that are robust and meaningful but also awards that are at risk for a meaningful period of time.”

Not in our lifetimes, but in our children’s, perhaps?

So not only are the C.E.O's of the one percent status quo gobbling up America's income and assets, many of them are nothing more than fairly mediocre business people whose main skill is ruthlessly climbing to the top of the money tree.

As for taking comfort in seeing almost incomprehensibly overcompensated C.E.O.'s occasionally leave their positions, that could be a financial injustice to workers too, as CorpWatch notes:

And CEO’s sometimes do even better when they quit. Take for example, James Mulva of ConocoPhillips. He was paid $140.8 million in 2011 but topped that in 2012 when he left the company after 10 years as CEO. Once he cashed out his stock options, took his retirement bonus and got his final paycheck, he collected a whopping $260 million in 2012.

Meanwhile, for many Americans, they have to get by with putting on a blue Walmart smock and applying for food stamps and Medicaid because they can't otherwise survive on their minuscule salaries.

(Photo: Thomas Hawk)