Bloomberg Business Week, citing data compiled by Pearl Meyer & Partners, said that the typical director of a large corporation made $216,000 last year, up from $129,667 in 2003.
For some, total compensation, including cash payments, stock grants, and other perks, has climbed above seven figures. The highest-earning board member they found was Edward A. Kangas. His 2008 board pay: $1,314,418. That includes four directorships: Intuit, which pays him $374,888; Hovnanian Enterprises, $409,007; Tenet Healthcare, $404,046; and United Technologies, $126,477.
If he could change only one thing about corporate boards, author Gillespie said he would make it illegal for the CEO of a company to serve also as chairman. Sixty-one percent of Fortune 500 companies have a CEO who is also the chairman of the board.
A version of the Senate's financial reform bill, currently being debated, would require companies to send out materials to investors explaining why their CEO is also the chairman. It is a first step, but hardly a meaningful one, said Gillespie.
"CEOs doubling as chairman of public companies should be banned, period," he said. "It shifts the power entirely to the executives. They need oversight, not a rubber stamp." ABC News' Charles Herman contributed to this report