Top CEOs Paid More Than 1,000 Times Average Employees

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The highest paid executive in the U.S. last year was Ron Johnson, CEO of J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (NYSE: JCP), who hauled in a total of $53.3 million in total compensation. The average worker at Penney’s earned $29,688. Johnson’s pay was 1,795 times greater than an average Penney’s employee last year.

According to a new look at pay differences completed by Bloomberg News, there are seven other CEOs who earned more than 1,000 times the salary and benefits of an average employee at his firm. And yes, the top eight are all men. The first woman on the list comes in at number 24, Irene Rosenfeld, CEO of Mondelez International Inc. (NASDAQ: MDLZ), whose $21.9 million in 2011 pay was 565 times the average employee’s $38,810 earnings in salary and benefits.

As part of the Dodd-Frank legislation, Congress ordered the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to disclose the ratio of CEO pay to the median of all other company employees. The SEC has not yet produced such a rule, and the lobbying effort against a rule could delay a decision for some time to come.

It is true that a lot of a CEO’s compensation comes from options on stock that vest over several years and that the change in accounting rules now requires companies to report the stock grants fully in the year they are awarded. Former Penney’s CEO Johnson told Bloomberg that his majestic 2012 pay was due to Penney’s desire to have him begin work before he fully vested some $80 million in shares of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL). Had Johnson lasted through 2013, his pay would have been $1.9 million in salary, period.

The second-widest differential on the Bloomberg list occurs at Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (NYSE: ANF), where CEO Michael Jefferies raked in $48.1 million in 2012, some 1,640 times more than the average worker’s pay of $29,310. Of that total, $43.2 million were stock options that were underwater as of April 25, 2013.

Bloomberg’s list is available here.