Median pay packages for chief executives reached a new high last year of over $10 million, according to a study by the Associated Press and Equilar. This is the fourth year that compensation has climbed for top execs, as they continue to profit from the rising stock market.
The study says that the leader of a large, publicly traded company earned $10.5 million in 2013, which is an 8.8 percent increase from 2012 and is the first time median pay has crossed into eight figures. A chief executive now makes 257 times the average worker's salary, according to the AP.
Topping the list of highly paid executives is Anthony Petrello of oilfield-services company Nabors Industries, who brought home $68.3 million last year. Leslie Moonves of CBS made $65.6 million, an increase of 9 percent, while CBS stock rose 70 percent last year.
Women CEOs made up a tiny percentage of the group — just a dozen compared to 325 men. But their median income was even higher, at $11.7 million.
Much of the windfall is thanks to performance bonuses and stock options; The S&P 500 rose 30 percent last year and earnings per share went up 5 percent, and executive compensation is usually tied to these indicators, according to Forbes.
Bankers were the biggest winners as Wall Streeters enjoyed a 22 percent raise, which came on top of a 22 percent increase the year before. More than two-thirds of CEOs got a raise last year, according to the study that was based on federal filing statements.
Labor groups point to lavish executive compensation as a symbol of rising income inequality as worker wages remain low and unemployment stays high. The AFL-CIO puts the CEO-to-worker pay ratio even higher at 331 times more, and 774 times higher than minimum-wage workers.
To put it into perspective, the average worker makes $16.94 an hour, according to an AFL-CIO report, while Nabors CEO Anthony Petrello makes almost $10,000 an hour. The number of hours that a minimum-wage worker would have to work to make as much as just one hour of pay for T-Mobile CEO John Legere is 580 hours; to equal one hour of pay for Wal-Mart CEO Michael T. Duke, it would be 1,300 hours.
From 2009 to 2012, the top 1 percent captured 95 percent of the income gains in the first three years after the recovery, according to the report.
A California Senate committee is proposing a measure that would link corporate tax rates to CEO pay, and the taxes would lower on a sliding scale for companies paying chief executives less than 100 times their workers, according to NPR.
Corporations would be expected to publish the ratio of CEO-to-worker pay under a Securities and Exchange Commission rule that's expected to take effect this year — the SEC estimates it would cost companies $18,000 in paperwork to complete, according to NPR.
"The intent behind the pay ratio rule is inherently political as it is designed to 'shame' American businesses in order to placate certain special interest constituencies," a Chamber of Commerce report said. "It is hard to understand the economic or logical argument behind the rule."