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Pay Ratio of CEOs During the Pandemic Shows More Than Meets the Eye

CEO pay fell in 2020 at the largest U.S. companies, according to a new report from Equilar. The Equilar 100, an annual study of the 100 largest U.S. companies by revenue to file a proxy statement prior to March 31, found that total CEO compensation was $15.5 million at the median, down 1.6 percent from $15.7 million in the 2019 study.

Pay ratio

Meanwhile, the median revenue for the largest 100 companies to file by March 31, 2021 was $37.4 billion. This number is up slightly from $37.3 billion the year prior.

These high-level trends mask the more nuanced — and polarized — impacts beneath the surface.

“The broad numbers show that leading U.S. companies collectively were resilient, but there was notable volatility at a company-by-company level, in harmony with the realities felt in the market,” said Dan Marcec, Senior Editor for Equilar and author of the report.

Despite the small decrease in median total compensation, 32 CEOs saw a smaller pay package in 2020 than in 2019. This is compared to just 23 who saw a dip the year earlier.

Furthermore, 56 companies in the Equilar 100 saw revenue declines in 2020, and 27 of those were double-digit losses. In 2019, just 23 companies among the Equilar 100 saw revenue drop. Only five saw losses greater than 10 percent.

Other key trends include a drop in the CEO-to-median-employee pay ratio. The median pay ratio for Equilar 100 companies in 2020 was 238:1. As opposed to the lower pay ratio 252:1 seen on the 2019 list.

In addition, fewer women are leading the largest companies than have been in previous yearsThere were just six women in the CEO position at Equilar 100 companies in 2020, in comparison to nine the previous two years. None of these women were among the top 10 highest paid.

About the report

The Equilar 100 includes the largest U.S.-listed companies by revenue to file annual proxy statements before April 1 to provide an early look at CEO pay trends for 2020. While many of the companies in the Equilar 100 are consistent from year to year, due to changes in revenue and floating filing dates the list is not the same every year.

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