Pay for performance vs. pay for failure, as CEOs paid millions to lose billions

Peter Cohan

There could be an opportunity to tweak the way we pay CEOs of big public companies. I hope this doesn't sound too harsh, but when you consider that the average 2008 compensation for the 10 highest paid public company CEOs was $40.7 million while their companies lost half of their stock market value -- or $30 billion -- I wonder whether some change may be in order.

In 2008, we put a big exclamation mark on what I hope is the end of an eight-year sentence of stabbing common shareholders in the back. Of the 10 highest paid CEOs, here are the four who destroyed the most stock market value while getting well above average pay. The companies are listed in descending order of the percentage destruction in stock market value, along with the CEO's 2008 compensation and loss in stock market capitalization:

  • Citigroup (C) paid CEO Vikram Pandit $38.2 million while its stock fell 78 percent, destroying $124 billion in stock market value

  • Motorola (MOT) CEO Sanjay Jha made $104 million while overseeing a 75 percent stock plunge, which wiped out $27.9 billion in stock market value

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