While bank CEOs have been widely blamed for cashing in on bonuses and stock while their companies faltered, a new report by the compensation research firm The Corporate Library has ranked five CEOs, all outside of finance, as the "Highest Paid Worst Performers."
A study of 2,000 CEOs by the firm found that the chief executives of retailer Abercrombie & Fitch, oil services firm BJ Services, cable company Comcast, International Paper and petroleum company Nabors Industries all earned "significant payouts despite what really was very poor performance being delivered to shareholders," said Corporate Library senior research associate Paul Hodgson.
The firm presented its findings as part of a sneak peak of a report on executive compensation it plans to release this Thursday.
The CEOs, all of whom saw compensation in excess of $30 million each in 2008, are:
Abercrombie & Fitch: Michael S. Jeffries, $71.8 million
BJ Services Company, J.W. Stewart: $34.6 million
Comcast Corp., Brian L. Roberts: $40.8 million
International Paper, John V. Faraci: $38.2 million
Nabors Industries, Eugene M. Isenberg: $79.3 million
Investor returns for these companies all dropped at least 20 percent for the one-year period ending this past June. For Abercrombie, BJ and Nabors, the drops were closer to 60 percent.
Hodgson said that one of the reasons companies often overpay their CEOs is that they base much of their pay on what rivals are paying rather than the company's own performance.
"If you take that kind of attitude, you're almost guaranteed to overpay your CEO," he said.
Nabors' Isenberg and Abercrombie's Jeffries rounded out the Corporate Library's list of top 10 highest paid CEOs, released earlier this year. The list was dominated by petroleum company CEOs, who took seven of the top ten spots. The two top-paid CEOs, however, Stephen Schwarzman of the financial firm Blackstone and Lawrence Ellison, of tech giant Oracle, out-earned their petro company counterparts by a stunning margin.
Stephen Schwarzman, Blackstone Group: $702.4 million
Lawrence J. Elllison, Oracle Corp.: $557 million
Ray R. Irani, Occidental Petroleum Corp.: $222.6 million.
John B. Hess, Hess Corp.: $159.6 million
Michael D. Watford, Ultra Petroleum Corp.:$116.9 million
Aubrey K. McClendon, Chesapeake Energy Corp.: $114.3 million
Bob R. Simpson, XTO Energy Inc.: $103.5 million
Mark G. Papa, EOG Resources, Inc.: $90.5 million
Eugene M. Isenberg, Nabors Industries Ltd.: $79.3 million
Michael S. Jeffries, Abercrombie & Fitch Co.: $71.8 million
Overall, median CEO pay barely edged down in 2008, dropping just 0.08 percent, despite the sizeable share price declines of many companies.
Still, Hodgson said that seeing a decline at all was a "dramatic" development.
"This is the first time we have ever seen a decline in CEO pay since we started doing these surveys in 2002," he said. "That on its own, the fact that it didn't go up either by single digits or by double digits, which has been very typical over the past six years, is dramatic in and of itself."