In its annual list of highest paid corporate executives, Forbes magazine found that the Top 100 CEOs got a pay raise of 38 percent last year—a big jump compared to the 4 percent pay raise for the average American worker.
Forbes editor William Baldwin said the magazine has no problem with people making money, but even he had a hard time stomaching some of the details his staff uncovered this year.
No. 1 on the list is Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who makes just $1 a year in salary.
"Mister dollar-a-year Steve Jobs, he's a great executive, don't get me wrong about that, but he gets a lot of money as a substitute paycheck," Baldwin told ABC News.
Last year, by Forbes' calculation, Jobs made nearly $647 million in stock bonuses. That's more than the gross national product of the nation of Djibouti, and more than the the combined incomes of Oprah Winfrey, Tiger Woods and Steven Spielberg.
Public Disclosure a Remedy, Says Forbes
Baldwin said highly paid CEOs need to earn their paychecks, but some of them simply do not.
"Some people are not delivering results for their shareholders, and they're pulling down very large paychecks," he said.
One example, he said, is the Wal-Mart head H. Lee Scott.
"In the past six years, Wal-Mart shares have basically gone nowhere," Baldwin said. "He hasn't done a whole lot for shareholders. The salary he's pulling down, $9 million or so, that's not small change."
Then there's Ray Irani, who made nearly $322 million last year running Occidental Petroleum.
"Did that require great genius to have a stock in the oil business that went up a lot over the last five years?" Baldwin said. "Remember, your gas prices are going up anyway. I don't think that's because this executive is clever at pricing gas."
On the flip side, Baldwin said, is eBay CEO Meg Whitman, who runs a hugely successful company and gets paid a relatively small $1.7 million a year.
What, if anything, should be done about skyrocketing CEO pay? Forbes' editors believe public disclosure is one of the best remedies.
But they say companies seem to be trying to make it harder to find out how much their executives make. A corporate filing from Sprint/Nextel, for example, is 60 pages long.