The offer by CEOs to forgo salary increases during the pandemic was largely symbolic. Salaries were stable, but many CEOs pocketed a windfall by cashing in stock options and obtaining vested stock awards, compounding income inequalities laid bare during the past year.
CEO compensation, including realized stock options and vested stock awards, rose 15.9% from 2019 to 2020 among early reporting firms. Growth in CEO compensation was slightly faster than last year’s strong growth—14.0% between 2018 and 2019—while the annual compensation of the average worker increased just 1.8% in 2020.
Strong CEO compensation growth and modest growth in worker annual compensation yielded a remarkable growth in the CEO-to-worker compensation ratio, which jumped from 276.2 in 2019 to 307.3 in 2020 among early reporting firms. In firms that retained the same CEO, the CEO-to-worker compensation ratio rose to 341.6 in 2020, up from 278.9 in 2019.Preliminary data show CEO pay jumped nearly 16% in 2020, while average worker compensation rose 1.8% | Economic Policy Institute