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32% of U.S. directors say CEOs are overpaid

From Bloomberg News

Nearly one-third of directors at U.S. public companies think chief executives are overpaid, according to a survey released Tuesday.

The study by Chicago-based executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles International Inc. and USC’s Center for Effective Organizations questioned 227 directors. Of them, 32% said CEO pay was “too high in most cases,” up from 25% in 2001.

A slight majority in the latest survey -- 52% -- agreed that compensation for top executives was “about right except for a few high-profile cases.”

The study shows that executive compensation and how companies disclose it “are a growing concern even among the people most responsible for dealing with them: the board members of public companies,” Edward Lawler, director of the USC center, said in a statement.

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More than three-quarters of the board members surveyed said compensation consulting firms played a significant role in rising CEO pay.

In 2006, almost half the country’s largest companies hired pay consultants who had conflicts of interest that most of the companies didn’t disclose, according to a report released in December by Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Half of those surveyed said they agreed “to some extent” that executive pay information published in corporate proxy statements was easily understood. Twelve percent said they agreed to a “great” or “very great” extent.

The Securities and Exchange Commission began requiring all public companies to provide more information about stock-option awards and the compensation of their highest-paid employees in 2006.


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