America’s Corporate Inequality Problem

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Many of the reforms contained in Dodd-Frank — passed nearly three years ago, now — have yet to be written as clear-cut regulations through the complicated federal rule-making process. One of these rules would require corporations to disclose the pay gap between workers and CEOs. Although executive compensation disclosure has been an SEC requirement since the early 1990s, median worker pay has not — and not surprisingly, corporate lobbyists have been working hard to make sure that reform doesn’t see the light of day.

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

When (and if) a rule is written, shareholders will have hard data about the dramatic inequalities that exist within corporate America. In the meantime, Bloomberg News posted a chart of the top 250 S&P 500 companies with the highest estimated pay gaps for 2012. Since average worker pay is not usually available — thus the need for the new rule — Bloomberg used an “estimate of industry-specific rank-and-file employee compensation calculated from government data” to come up with the typical worker to chief executive pay ratios.

At the top of their list? JC Penney’s recently departed CEO Ron Johnson raked in an estimated 1,795 times what the average retail worker made in 2012. Also rans include Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who made 1,135 times the average worker and David Novak, CEO of Yum! Brands — the company that manages Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut — who made 819 times as much.

JC Penney data

Click to view Bloomberg's chart of CEO vs. worker compensation for Standard & Poor’s 500 Index top 250 companies.

All three CEOs — and many others — received paychecks and benefits in the millions, while the median worker at their company likely earned less than $30,000 annually. In fact, the average multiple of CEO-to-typical-worker compensation among the companies Bloomberg looked at increased 20 percent since 2009, even as the country has struggled to recover from the recession.

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