By Shawn Langlois, MarketWatch
MarketWatch photo illustration/Getty Images, iStockphoto
Investors endured a rough 2018, with a December drawdown capping a year that saw the major stock-market indexes post their worst annual performances since the financial crisis a decade ago.
By the time the ball dropped on the volatile 12-month stretch, the Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -0.88% and the S&P 500 index /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -1.12% had both shed about 6%, while the Nasdaq Composite /zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime COMP -1.07% had given up 3.9%.
Not that you would, of course, but don’t cry for the execs faced with navigating these companies through those challenging months. They did just fine. In fact, better than fine. The AFL-CIO found that CEOs earn a whopping 287 times their average employee, up from 30-to-1 in 1978.
According to the Wall Street Journal , median compensation for S&P 500 CEOs reached a record level of $12.4 million last year, or about $1 million a month.
Cost-estimating website HowMuch.net took the data in the report and created a visualization to put those earnings in perspective. The two circles, scaled relative to size, represent the CEO’s pay and the shareholder return, respectively. A green circle indicates that CEO’s company had positive returns; red indicates negative.
First, the top five highest-paid CEOs, led by Discovery’s /zigman2/quotes/200511275/composite DISCA -1.32% David Zaslav, who earned $129.4 million and delivered shareholder return of 10.5%. Richard B. Handler of Jefferies /zigman2/quotes/206157580/composite JEF -0.50% had the dubious distinction of the only one with negative returns.
And here’s the lowest paid, which includes the likes of Alphabet’s /zigman2/quotes/202490156/composite GOOGL -2.42% Larry Page and Twitter’s /zigman2/quotes/203180645/composite TWTR +2.03% Jack Dorsey, both of whom take $1 salaries. Berkshire Hathaway’s /zigman2/quotes/208872451/composite BRK.A +0.37% Warren Buffett and his $398,000 also pops up on the visual.
Now, a look at the women making the most cash, led by General Motors boss /zigman2/quotes/205226835/composite GM -1.32% Mary Barra. As you can see, the only woman delivering positive returns was Nasdaq’s /zigman2/quotes/205547889/composite NDAQ -1.60% Adena Friedman.
Here are the ones with the highest shareholder returns, led by Jayson Adair of Copart /zigman2/quotes/200378896/composite CPRT +1.38% and Lisa Su of AMD /zigman2/quotes/208144392/composite AMD -2.12% .
And the lowest:
Most Overall, S&P CEOs got raises of 5% or better during the year, the Journal found, while total shareholder return was negative 5.8%. The highest compensation was made in health-care, media and financial, with those sectors taking up 18 of the top 25. Technology companies are usually in the mix, but in 2018, the sector took only three spots.