Are CEOs finally due for a pay cut?

Many shareholders, it turns out, belong to the 99 per cent

The global economy may not have completely recovered from the financial crash of 2008, but for senior executives, the hard times, if they ever arrived at all, are now nearly over. American CEOs earned an average of US$11 million in total compensation last year. That’s down just slightly from the US$12.4 million they earned in 2007, the last pre-crash year, according to a new analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, a U.S. think tank. In Canada, meanwhile, the 100 best-paid chief executives earned an average of $8.4 million in 2010, a raise of 27 per cent from 2009.

But there are growing signs that largesse isn’t sitting well, and not just with the Occupy movement. Investors worldwide are protesting more vocally about executive pay. More than half of Citigroup shareholders voted to reject a US$15-million pay package for CEO Vikram Pandit in April. (Shares in the U.S. bank have fallen more than 80 per cent since Pandit took over in 2007.) In the U.K., Barclays’ shareholders heckled board chairman Marcus Agius at a recent annual meeting, while investors in U.S. natural gas giant Chesapeake Energy, CIBC and other firms have been rumbling about similar revolts in recent months. It turns out that institutional investors, too, are part of the 99 per cent.