CEO Pay is again in the spotlight of the 2020 AGM Proxy Season. With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting many aspects of the business, a large portion of companies have proceeded with executive compensation adjustments as a response.

How has the compensation scene changed over the last year? Of course, the proxy season has yet to be finished, hence the ranking of the companies and analysis will change over time. Nevertheless, it is worth reviewing the changes over the year so far, and the impact of any decisions made to the compensation practices of companies.

In this article we have included how the performance of the company has changed to understand how executives are rewarded compared to company performance.

Key CEO pay takeaways in 2020 so far:

    • – The sum of the top 50 total granted compensation has decreased by 53% from 2018 to 2019 ($4.73bn in 2018 down to $2.24bn in 2019).
    • – Last year’s top paid individual and company is not included in this year’s top 50 highest paid executives as he was granted only USD 23,760. He exercised, however, a total of USD 30,483,520 in options. Last year, Elon Musk’s pay accounted for over 50% of the $4.73bn granted of the 50 highest paid executives.
    • – This year’s first place for highest paid CEO, belongs to Sundar Pichai of Alphabet Inc., whose payment represents almost 13% of the $2.15bn.
    • – A few companies that have made it onto the list of the top 50 highest paid CEOs have also made changes due to COVID-19, either on their compensation practices or dividends:


  • The Walt Disney Company: The Walt Disney Company (DIS) announced that in response to the business challenges relating to COVID-19, each of the Company’s named executive officers agreed to receive a temporary reduction in their base salaries, effective with the payroll period commencing April 5, 2020. The Executive Chairman, and former Chief Executive Officer, of Walt Disney agreed to forego all of his compensation except a portion of his base salary.
  • Burlington Stores, Inc.: Burlington’s CEO, Michael O’Sullivan, will not take a salary, while the company’s Board of Directors will forfeit their cash compensation, and the Company’s executive leadership team has voluntarily agreed to decrease their salary by 50%.
  • Comcast Corporation: Comcast Chief Brian Roberts, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell and other division leaders at Comcast will donate their salaries to coronavirus-related relief efforts as the world grapples with the devastating pandemic.
  • Fiserv Inc.: Fiserv Inc.’s top executives are taking temporary base salary pay cuts to compensate employees, who experience financial hardship due to the COVID-19. The Company disclosed that its Chairman & CEO, Jeffery Yabuki, and President & Chief Operating Officer, Frank Bisignano, have each agreed to forgo 100% of their base salary.
  • Wells Fargo & Company, Arconic, Inc.,The Walt Disney Company, The Kraft Heinz Company, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. have also implemented dividend cuts or changes due to COVID-19.


  • – It is also worth noting, the average growth in market capitalization in 2019 (of the 50 highest paid Executives) was 43%. A big increase compared to the growth of 1% seen in 2018.
  • – One-year Total Shareholder Return (TSR) growth also saw an increase of as much as 42%!

Please note: Compensation in USD – exchange rates based on single point of time, end of tax year 2019.

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