Large company disclosures so far suggest a return to historical norms for U.S. CEO pay growth with the slower rate of growth evidenced last year likely looking to be an aberration,” said Roy Saliba, Managing Director at ISS-Corporate.

April 30, 2024

Rise in CEO Pay at U.S. Large Cap Companies Returns to Historical Norms

ROCKVILLE, Md. (April 30, 2024) – ISS-Corporate, a leading provider of compensation, governance, cyber risk monitoring, and sustainability offerings to help companies improve shareholder value and reduce risk, today announced the results of a preliminary analysis of CEO pay changes at S&P 500 companies that filed proxy statements between October 1, 2023, and April 22, 2024.   

The ISS-Corporate analysis, which examined 343 U.S. large capital companies at which the CEO was in the same role for the current and previous filing years, found a median CEO pay increase of 9.2 percent for the 2023 to 2024 filing period. Representing a significant increase over the 3.1 percent rise observed between the 2022 and 2023 filing period and on par with the 13.2 percent rise from the 2021 to 2022 filing period, the figure suggests a return to historical norms in the growth of CEO pay.

Median pay for CEOs at the included S&P 500 companies stood at $15.7 million, the analysis found. Roughly 70 percent of S&P 500 CEOs in the study received a pay increase while compensation dropped for approximately 27 percent of them. When focusing on the segment of companies that increased pay for their top executives, the median change was a robust 17.3 percent, while pay decreased by a median of 7.5 percent for the segment of companies where pay was lower.

Drilling down into the components of compensation, CEO pay changes were largely driven by increases in the value of stock and option awards. While the median base salary of $1.3 million reflects a modest increase of 2.8 percent over the previous filing period, the median stock award now stands at $9.1 million and the median option award (when granted) at $3.1 million, representing median increases of 11.2 percent and 9.5 percent respectively over award values in the previous year.

Companies in the S&P 500 generally exhibited strong total shareholder returns (TSR) over the measurement period (1-year TSR is measured at the end of the fiscal year for each company) with a median TSR of 11.6 percent for the subject companies in the study. TSR was positive for both companies that increased pay (median TSR of 13.2 percent) and those that lowered pay (median TSR of 9.5 percent).

“Large company disclosures so far suggest a return to historical norms for U.S. CEO pay growth with the slower rate of growth evidenced last year likely looking to be an aberration,” said Roy Saliba, Managing Director at ISS-Corporate. “The stock market continued to show resilience and exceeded most expectations during the same period as evidenced by the strong performance of many companies even when faced with higher interest rates and tighter monetary policy, potentially allaying pay and performance alignment concerns as CEO pay continues to rise.”

Industries with the largest changes in pay include Consumer Services and Transportation with median changes of 27.4 percent and 23.3 percent respectively, while pay decreased by a median of 3.4 percent for Technology Hardware and Equipment companies.

Variations at the industry level show the most notable disparity between median change in CEO pay and median TSR at Consumer Durables & Apparel companies, where the median TSR was 51.8 percent while pay grew by 4 percent, and in Commercial and Professional Services, where the median TSR was 26.2 percent while pay decreased by 1 percent.  Companies in the worst-performing industry, Consumer Staples Distribution & Retail, had a median 1-year TSR decline of 10.8 percent and a median increase in CEO pay of 5 percent.


About ISS-Corporate
ISS Corporate Solutions, Inc. (“ISS-Corporate”) is a leading provider of cutting-edge SaaS and high-touch advisory services to companies, globally. Companies turn to ISS-Corporate for expertise in designing and managing governance, compensation, sustainability, and cyber risk programs that align with company goals, reduce risk, and manage the needs of a diverse shareholder base by delivering data, tools, and advisory services. ISS-Corporate’s global client base extends across North America, Europe, and Asia, as well as other established and emerging markets worldwide.

ISS STOXX GmbH, through its group companies, is a leading provider of comprehensive and data-centric research and technology solutions that help capital market participants identify investment opportunities, detect qualitative and quantitative portfolio company risks, and meet evolving regulatory requirements. With roots dating back to 1985, we today deliver world-class benchmark and custom indices across asset classes and geographies and serve as a premier source of independent corporate governance, sustainability, cyber risk, and fund intelligence research, data, and related offerings. Our products and services give clients the scale and leverage they need to grow their business more effectively and efficiently. ISS STOXX, which is majority owned by Deutsche Börse Group, is comprised of more than 3,400 professionals operating across 33 global locations in 19 countries. Its approximately 6,400 clients include many of the world’s leading institutional investors who turn to ISS STOXX for its objective and varied offerings, as well as companies focused on ESG, cyber, and governance risk mitigation as a shareholder value enhancing measure. Clients rely on ISS STOXX’s expertise to help them make informed decisions to benefit their stakeholders.

Media Contact:
Audrey Dedrick
Associate, Communications

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