How to Get $500 Million: Play Powerball or Become a CEO

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Written by Nicole Woo   
Wednesday, 28 November 2012 16:20

Across the nation, lines are winding down streets and around corners as folks wait to buy a ticket for Powerball's $550 million dollar jackpot, the second-largest in U.S. history.  While that seems like an unimaginable amount of riches for typical Americans, it's what many corporate CEOs regularly make in a just few years.

The Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) recently exposed "The CEO Campaign to ‘Fix’ the Debt: A Trojan Horse for Massive Corporate Tax Breaks" and listed the taxable compensation of the CEOs involved in it.  The list is topped by Leon Black of Apollo Global Management, a private equity fund. He made $215 million last year and was in the news for spending $120 million on a single famous painting.

IPS also released "Executive Excess 2012: The CEO Hands in Uncle Sam's Pocket," highlighting the corporate executives who've reaped the highest pay.  That list is led by James Mulva of ConocoPhillips, who took home almost $146 million in taxable pay in 2011.

The Associated Press analyzed the compensation packages at S&P 500 companies to identify the 50 highest-paid CEOs. Number one on that list is David Simon of the Simon Property Group, who made $137 million last year.

And Apple's Tim Cook recorded the highest compensation on record in the Wall Street Journal's annual CEO pay survey. In August 2011, he was awarded a $378 million annual pay package, mostly from a million shares of Apple stock. Since then, Apple's share price has exploded, so that part of his pay is today worth $583 million (more than the Powerball jackpot!).

Add up the pay of any three of the CEOs above, and you get about $500 million (or much more) for just one year of work. They don't need Powerball to get hundreds of millions of dollars; they just need to keep being CEOs.

While it's nice to dream about what we'd do if any of us won the lottery, this is also a good day to think about how corporate CEO pay packages have risen so unbelievably sky-high.  And while you're at it, check out the IPS reports for concrete proposals to bring them back to down to earth.

Tags: CEOs | corporate pay packages | inequality | Wall Street