Came across this interesting coverage on CEO pay in WSJ. The following were the notable milestones in corporate CEO pay, interesting:
1974: Michel Bergerac breaks the $1 million barrier when Revlon Inc. woos its new president from ITT with a $1.5 million signing bonus.
1979: New Chrysler Corp. chief Lee Iacocca takes a $1-a-year salary; that setup lasts a year. He also gets options to buy 400,000 shares.
1983: William Agee leaves Bendix Corp. after its takeover, and becomes the first CEO of a major company to collect a hefty golden parachute -- $3.9 million over five years.
1984: Congress enacts law seeking to limit excessive golden parachutes, but it has the opposite effect -- establishing a new, higher standard.
1986: New federal law spurs spread of huge option awards by offering favorable tax treatment for bigger grants in a single year.
1987: Mr. Iacocca gets first "megagrant": 820,000 options equaling 15.34 times his salary and bonus.
1987: Junk-bond king Michael Milken becomes highest-paid employee in history, making $500 million in salary and bonus.
Early 1990s: Activists urge companies to use stock options more, in an attempt to link pay to performance. But instead of displacing other types of compensation, options are often awarded on top of other pay.
1991: U.S. Surgical Corp. chief Leon Hirsch gets biggest-ever megagrant, with an option award representing 125.6 times his salary and bonus.
1991: Coca-Cola Co. Chairman Roberto Goizueta receives one million shares of restricted stock, the biggest such award to that time.
1992: The Securities and Exchange Commission issues tougher proxy-disclosure rules, which indirectly foster higher chief-executive pay by making it easier for CEOs to see what their peers get.
1992: Michael Eisner, chairman and CEO of Walt Disney Co., exercises enough low-cost stock options to realize an indicated pretax profit of $126.9 million from selling 3.45 million shares.
1993: New tax law caps deductibility of a senior executive's compensation over $1 million -- inadvertently establishing that level as a minimum for CEOs. SEC Chairman Christopher Cox has said the cap also encouraged the growth of "less transparent forms" of pay, such as pensions and deferred compensation.
1994: Amid opposition from Congress and Silicon Valley, accounting regulators abandon a proposal that would have required companies to record stock options as expenses in their financial results. That leaves options effectively free for the companies granting them.
Late 1990s: The bull market turns option awards into staggering paydays, even for many CEOs at companies underperforming their peers.
2001: Enron Corp. collapses in an accounting scandal. Debacles follow at WorldCom Corp., Adelphia Communications Corp. and Tyco International Ltd. The common thread: Top executives massaged the books to prop up the share prices that accounted for most of their net worth.
2002: Sarbanes-Oxley Act is passed in response to the scandals. It requires more timely disclosure of executive-pay deals, and also requires CEOs and chief financial officers to return performance-based pay or profits from stock sales following restatements of financial results that involve misconduct.
2004: Regulators begin requiring companies to expense stock-option awards. Many companies respond by handing out fewer options but distributing more restricted stock.
2006: The SEC adopts rules requiring companies to disclose more about executive compensation, especially perks -- and for the first time requires the full board to approve and be legally responsible for the proxy statement's report on pay practices.
2006: Backdating of executives' stock options bursts into public view. The practice leads to earnings restatements, federal probes and criminal prosecutions. Apple Inc., Monster Worldwide Inc. and UnitedHealth Group Inc. are among more than two dozen companies where directors or executives are fired or suspended or resign amid options probes.
2007: The House of Representatives passes a "say on pay" bill that would require companies to give shareholders an advisory vote on top officers' compensation. But the measure has yet to clear the Senate.
2008: At its annual meeting on May 5, insurer Aflac Inc. will become the first U.S. public company to give investors a say-on-pay advisory vote.
p/s photos: Tiffany Lee Lung Yee