Walmart Inc. (NYSE: WMT) CEO Doug McMillon received $22.8 million in compensation for the company’s 2018 fiscal year that ended in January. The median salary for the other 2.22 million Walmart employees was $19,177. McMillon was paid 1,188.1 times as much as a median employee, according to Walmart’s proxy statement filed last Friday.
According to an Equilar report published before McMillon’s compensation package was posted, last year’s most highly compensated CEO was Hock Tan of Broadcom, who received $103.2 million, an increase of more than 300% from the prior year.
The median ratio of CEO pay to that of a median employee was 235 to one, according to Equilar. Walmart’s ratio was just over five times the media. The widest ratio reported was 2,483 to one for Jonas Prising, CEO of staffing firm Manpower Group, where the median pay of $4,828 was spread among 600,000 employees, most of whom are filling temporary jobs.
McMillon’s salary accounted for just $1.28 million of his total compensation package. He received $15.69 million in stock-based pay, $4.74 million in non-equity incentive pay and another $1.1 million other compensation.
Do shareholders care about these enormous pay differences? According to a new paper from economists Dean Baker and Jessica Schieder, not much. They looked at a provision of the Affordable Care Act that prevented health insurers from deducting CEO pay over $500,000 and taxing any pay above that cap as profit, effectively raising the cost of CEO pay by more than 50%.
Assuming that CEO pay was closely related to the CEO’s value to the company, we would expect pay levels to fall. That’s not what happened. Baker said:
Our results find zero evidence of a decrease in the pay of insurance company CEOs. That suggests that pay is not closely related to the CEO’s value to a company. It also means that if we want to see a reduction in CEO pay, we will have to fix a broken corporate governance structure.
To rein in CEO pay, transform corporate structures that allow CEOs to set their own pay by placing friends on boards of directors that have oversight.
Perhaps shareholders’ ambivalence is not so much that they don’t care but that they have little power to do anything about CEO pay given the chumminess between the CEO and a company’s board. Besides, one can argue that reducing economic inequality is not part of a company’s job. That chore belongs to policymakers. Sense a pattern here?