Should Top Executives Make The Money They Do?


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Abstract ........................................................... iii

Introduction ....................................................... 1

High Pay Seems Small When Compared To Company Profits .............. 2

Top Executives Are Under A Lot Of Pressure ......................... 3

US Executives Paid Three Times More Than Other Countries For A

Reason ..................................................... 4

Pay Should Reflect Performance ..................................... 5

Conclusions And Recommendations .................................... 6

Notes .............................................................. 8

Bibliography ....................................................... 9


This report explores the issue of the pay that top executives make, and the

reasons why they do. It also suggests improvements that can be made to make the

system better.

High Pay Seems Small When Compared To Company Profits

Many companies pull in profits that are extremely high. When an employee of

such a companies salary is compared to the amount of profit that the company

earns, it starts to seem reasonable. It only makes sense that if the employee

is directly responsible for the success of their company, then they deserve to

get their payback. It seems ironic, but many salaries even look small once

compared with a companies profits.

Top Executives Are Under A Lot Of Pressure

Being the CEO of a company is not an easy job. There is all kinds of pressure

for a person in such a position to succeed. If they do not, then it is their

job on the line. Therefore, they deserve to receive a large sum of money for

the work that they do. It is the only way to compensate these employees for the

tremendous strain that their job puts on them. It is essential that the

employees get paid the amount of money that they deserve.

Pay Should Reflect Performance

When CEOs are being given big paychecks, they are expected to perform at a high

level. There success is impeccable. However, this does not always happen.

There should be some way of connecting pay to job performance. The best way of

doing this would be to award bonuses to those workers who are at the top of

their class. This would not only motivate workers to do a good job, but also

reward the employees that do succeed.


It is a well known fact that many people holding high positions in companies

make an exorbitant amount of money. Some, however, say that they do not deserve

the amount that they are paid. They feel that for the amount of work that is

done by these executives, their paycheck is simply too high. Also, they believe

that these high paid workers often do a mediocre job, while still managing to

reap the benefits of being an executive. While these are viable arguments

against this issue, the other side of the spectrum shows that this is not so.

There is an equal amount of evidence, if not more, that suggests that executives

earn every penny of their paychecks.

The CEOs of companies are under an extraordinary amount of pressure. They face

the task of making sure that a company pulls in a profit, or possibly losing

their job. There are few, if any other positions that put an employee in this

situation. Important decisions are made by them everyday, many of which decide

whether a company will prosper, or go under. Many of these men had to work

their way to the top. They usually have extensive business backgrounds, and

know their field well. There are very few people qualified, or knowledgeable

enough to perform well in executive positions. That makes the ones that are, a

hot commodity. Thus allowing them to demand the high pay that they earn.

High Pay Seems Small When Compared To Company Profits

When the public sees a salary that they consider to be too big, they are usually

looking at only half of the picture. It is impossible to look at just the

salary, without taking any other factors into consideration. One must look at

the amount of earnings, compared to the profits of the company.

For instance, Robert Allen, who runs ATT was recently pointed out by 60 Minutes

as being an overpaid executive. Their major problem was that he had been

responsible for laying off 40,000 employees, while still managing to give

himself a large pay increase. At first glance, this situation may appear to be

one involving a greedy and overpaid executive. However, upon closer examination,

it proves to be much to the contrary. The situation wherein the 40,000

employees were laid off, was not a matter of getting rid of people for an

unfounded reason. It was more a matter of getting rid of an excessively large

work force, and getting the same job done with fewer people. This not only

benefited ATT, but also, the customers receiving service from ATT. "For exactly

the same service in 1996, the average family will be paying $11 less."1 This is

due to the fact that the consumer's money was not going to a larger number of

employees, but going directly to the minimal cost of performing the job. Robert

Allen has a total salary of 20 million dollars. This salary seems to be

extremely high when put as a statistic by itself. This changes, though, when

you compare it to the total earning of ATT. His salary calculates to be 1/3,450

of ATT's gross. All of the sudden, the 20 million dollars does not seem like

such a high figure after all. Another factor that serves to make his salary a

valid amount, is that even if his total pay was split between all of the laid

off workers, they would only receive about $500, not much more than a weeks pay.

When all of the cards are on the table, a salary of 20 million dollar starts to

look quite reasonable.

Top Executives Are Under A Lot Of Pressure

Most jobs are clear-cut. A person has a designated task to perform, and the

method of performing this task is clearly laid out. If all directions are

followed, then there is not too much that can go wrong. This, unfortunately, is

not the situation for top executives in companies. They are in the tough

position of making decisions that may affect the whole company. With one bad

move, they can bring a multi-million dollar business under. On the same level,

though, that can bring in an infinite amount of profit by making a good move.

All executives realize this, and this puts an superfluous amount of pressure on

them. Most people could not handle this on a day in, day out basis. It would

eventually catch up to them.

Seeing that one person is given so much power, what guarantee is there that they

will do a good job? There is none. That is why there has to be a large amount

of money involved. If a person did a job such as this, and received a small

amount of pay, then there would not be much incentive for them to do a good job.

They could always find another job, with a similar amount of pay, that did not

put them under the stress that executive jobs put them under. Once an immense

salary comes into play, then that gives a person reason to thrive in such an

industry. When a person has a goal such as this, it tends to elevate their

performance to a higher level. This means a company succeeds, and pulls in a

profit. It seems that whenever money becomes a factor, a much greater importance

is put on things, and a much smaller margin of error is tolerated. The top

executives are the ones who are affected by this, and it is they who are

rewarded, or punished depending on the outcome of their company.

US Executives Paid Three Times More Than Other Countries For A Reason

US executives receive a substantially larger pay than their worldwide colleagues.

One report on earnings showed that "US CEOs were earning 3.2 times more than

their British counterparts."2 This is a tremendous difference, when one

considers that these people are doing the same job. This contrast in salaries

leads one to ask the question: Why do Americans earn so much more? The quality

of work is not an issue. There are many quite successful businessmen in Britain,

as there are in America. It is not a question of talent, because if a person

can be successful in one field or situation, then they will most likely be able

to cross it over into another area. In other words, if a businessman is able to

be successful in Britain, then they will presumably be able to succeed in

America. The reason why Americans are paid more is really quite simple.

America does things on a much larger scale than other countries. This does not

only concern salaries, but just about all other fields as well. The problem is

not finding qualified people that will work for lower wages. However, it is more

an issue of companies realizing the magnitude of the job being done, and

rewarding the employee with an amount of money that they deserve. This is an

acknowledgment by businesses, that CEOs of companies should be getting the pay

that they get.

If a company in America wanted to, they could easily hire an executive from

another country at a lower rate. In fact, many workers from other countries are

hired. However, when this happens, it is not a decision designed to save money.

It is a decision that is meant only to bring in quality workers. The new

employees are usually started off with an "American" level of pay. It is the

company, not the worker, that is responsible for high wages. This negates the

idea that quality workers can not be found at a reasonable rate. It is the

decision of the company to pick pay rates that are high, rather than a result of

worker demands. If people in the industry decided that executives were not

worth the money that they earn, it is up to them to lower their pay.

Pay Should Reflect Performance

Now that is has been established that CEOs deserve their paychecks, it is time

to examine problems with the system. It is not perfect, but for that matter,

neither is anything else. One major setback is the fact that most wages are not

representative of the productivity of that employee. Whether a worker is a

model employee who is very prolific, or a poor worker who is unproductive, they

still are given the same treatment by a companies far as pay is concerned. This

can lead to a business losing vast amounts of money, while the CEO fills his

pockets with money. For example, Varity Corporation was a business that was

once one of Canada's biggest and highest profiting companies. However, it

struggled greatly during the eighties, and lost money most years. That did not

stop its chairman Victor Rice from earning "more than $1-million in annual

compensation".3 This is clearly an abuse of power. If an employee is allowed

to continuously do a poor job, while still benefiting from his job, then there

is little reason for them to attempt and do a good job. In the case of Victor

Rice, there was obviously no correlation between the quality of his work, and

the pay that he received. If he did such a bad job though, then how come he

still had a job. This answer to this is one that affects many businesses. Many

times it actually costs a company more to get rid of an unwanted employee, than

it would to keep them on as a worker. "When Paul Stern stepped down as CEO of

Northern Telecom last year, he left with $164,112 for two months of employment,

a cash compensation package totaling $6 million and another $1.5 million in

stock options."4 The reason for this is that many times, when a position such

as CEO come into play, a contract is written up. That means that the worker is

supposed to be with the company for a certain amount of time. If this time

period is cut short, then that is a breach of their contract. By law, they must

be compensated for their removal from the company. This may cause a business to

hold onto an employee that is unwanted, because it is such a hassle to get rid

of them.

One solution is to make a direct connection between the amount of money that a

person is paid, and the quality of work that the person does. This would not

only put pressure on that individual to do a good job, but it would also give

them incentive to produce more. The best possible way to implement this would be

to start people off with a low base salary, and award large bonuses for any

goals that they meet. Right now, there are many hard working employees. They

appear to be putting their full effort into their job. However, it is amazing to

see how much more can be done when monetary awards are on the line. It may mean

the difference between an employee staying focused on his job and making his

business successful, rather than an employee slipping a little bit and forcing

his company to lose money. This technique of linking pay to performance is

practiced often in countries such as Germany, but is discouraged in place such

as America and Japan. This is definitely a policy that should be considered in

countries across the world.


It has been established that top executives do make a lot of money. It has also

been established that they deserve the money that they receive is well deserved.

These employees are making important decisions everyday. They are under a

tremendous amount of pressure to succeed. It is their job to make sure that

large corporations. Their jobs are arguably some of the most important in the

world. This certainly allows them to be presented with such large salaries.

There are a few steps, however, that can be taken to regulate the salaries that

are executives are paid. This is necessary because only the select workers that

do their job on a superior level deserve the high amount of money that they get.

1. Give employees a base salary, and award bonuses on top of that for any

profitable work done by that employee. This would not only give them a reason

to bring their work up to a premium level, but also create a distinction between

those employees who are successful, and the ones who are not. This would also

serve as a way to weed out those employees who can't cut it.

2. In order to guarantee that workers are paid based on performance, there

needs to be more legislature passed to put restrictions on method of salary

payment. Right now, Clinton gives a tax break for the companies that pay their

employees based on how they do their job, but even those who do not are able to

find ways, through the use of accountants, to get such tax breaks. There must

be stricter laws in place, with no loopholes.

3. The world on a whole, should agree on a standard level of pay for executives.

It is not fair that people in countries other than the US, receive 1/3 of the

pay, for doing the same job. This would help to give the executives around the

globe, the amount that they should be getting.

4. It should be easier for a corporation to get rid of an unwanted employee.

Right now, many are tied into contracts that require a large sum of money be

paid if the employee is released early. There needs to be escape clauses if

that employee performs lower than expectations. This will keep only the best

employees running businesses, meaning that these companies will be more


If all of these ideas were implemented, then the world of high paid executives

would run smoothly, without and controversy, or dispute concerning amount of pay.



1. "Rich-Baiting Time," National Review, 62 May 5, 1996

2. "Random Numbers," Maclean's, 42 May 9, 1994

3. "Giving Capitalism An Obscene Reputation," 35 May 9, 1994

4. "On The Right," Economist 62 June 3,1995


1. "Rich-Baiting Time," National Review, 62 May 5, 1996

2. "Random Numbers," Maclean's, 42 May 9, 1994

3. "Giving Capitalism An Obscene Reputation," 35 May 9, 1994

4. "On The Right," Economist 62 June 3,1995