Executive compensation continued to rise last year -- despite Occupy Wall Street's vociferous howling and gnashing of teeth -- and on average the pay of CEOs at S&P 500 companies increased 6 percent, according to a report by compensation-data company Equilar.
While overall compensation for CEOs at S&P 500 companies rose by 6 percent, cash bonuses fell by 7 percent. Most companies based the payouts of their short-term incentive instruments, such as cash bonuses, on earnings and revenue, while nonfinancial goals became less important in determining executive compensation, Equilar reported.
"As the economy has recovered and become more stable, companies are moving back to more hardline, quantitative financial measurements," Equilar said.
A shift back to financial metrics for determining CEO compensation may indicate improving overall macroeconomic stability. "During the uncertainty caused by the economic recession, many companies found it difficult to set targets for financial goals that were affected more by macroeconomic factors than by an executive's performance," Equilar reported.
Incentives for executives grew last year, exceeding comparable levels in 2009 and 2010. Moreover, 17 percent of CEOs received at least 175 percent of planned payouts (meaning they were paid 75 percent more than originally anticipated by the company) last year, compared with just 15 percent in 2009. However, this did constitute a drop from 2010 when 26 percent of CEOs received at least 175 percent of their projected payouts.
The 10 highest-paid CEOs last year predictably included tech titans Timothy D. Cook of Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) and Lawrence Ellison of Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL), as well as major oil players Stephen I. Chazen of Occidental Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: OXY) and Clarence P. Cazalot Jr. of Marathon Oil Corp. (NYSE: MRO). Both retailer Ronald B. Johnson of J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (NYSE: JCP) and industrialist Alan R. Mulally of Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) also made the top 10 list.
Check out the slideshow for the 10 highest-paid CEOs last year.