The Most Under-Paid CEO in America Is...

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Google's chief executive Eric Schmidt.

That's according to an algorithm developed by executive pay expert Graef Crystal. In a survey for Bloomberg News that analyzed the compensation of 271 chief executive officers, Crystal concluded that higher shareholder returns did not lead to higher pay or vice versa. Not a huge surprise. But some of the details are interesting.

For example: CBS chief executive Leslie Moonves, the highest paid CEO in the survey, would see his pay slashed by $28 million under Crystal's model. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Google's Schmidt would deserve a $17 million raise over his reported $245,322 base salary.

"The return explained none of the variations," said Crystal, 76, told Bloomberg. "Simply put, companies don't pay for performance.

People won't like this: Crystal's model also found that Wall Street CEOs were dramatically underpaid. The chief executives of Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup each earned "at least 89 percent less than the return-driven pay calculation in the Crystal model," according to the Bloomberg article.

It's worth pointing out that the higher shareholder returns from Wall Street's recent gangbuster quarters are the result of a government bailout, the reemergence of a hugely profitable Wall Street trading environment and federal support for the housing market. At the same time, Wall Street CEOs have drawn down their salaries in public relations moves while anger at the banks continues amongst 10 percent unemployment. In short, it's hard to compare Wall Street pay to earned performance right now.




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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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