Editors' Pick: Originally published Feb. 18.

CEO compensation is a hot-button issue for investors, labor unions, the public -- and now, given the election year, for politicians too.

Many Americans already believe that the chief executives of the country's biggest companies are paid too much, especially considering how much the average worker makes. Even Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump said in September that CEO pay was "a total and complete joke," according to Reuters.

Democrat Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has made the wealth gap a central part of his candidacy. He called the Securities and Exchange Commission's decision last summer to require companies to disclose the pay ratio between their CEOs and average workers "an important step in the fight against income inequality," according to Salon

As You Sow, a non-profit organization aimed at promoting environmental and social corporate responsibility, looked at the 100 most overpaid CEOs running S&P 500 companies, as determined by their 2014 compensation (the most widely available comprehensive data) as well as practices the organization "believes to have contributed to bloated compensation packages." The organization's second annual report on overpaid CEOs was released on Wednesday.

CEO pay has risen 997% in the past 36 years, "greatly outpacing" the S&P 500, which rose only 504% in the same time period. Between 1978 and 2013, a typical worker's pay rose by about 0.4% a year (adjusted for inflation) while the pay of a typical CEO rose almost a hundred-fold, according to As You Sow, citing the Economic Policy Institute.

The report determined whether a CEO was overpaid by looking at the executive's pay and performance, calculating how much of a CEO's pay was above and beyond what was deserved, as well as more than 30 "red flag" indicators, such as high cash incentives and stock option grants over $3 million in the last five of eight years. The most overpaid executives on the list typically had large calculated excess pay and many red flags.

"The most overpaid CEOs represent an extraordinary misallocation of assets," the report said. "Regression analysis showed 17 CEOs with compensation at least $20 million more in compensation in 2014 than they would have garnered if their pay had been aligned with performance."

Another issue that As You Sow deems critical is how fund managers are voting for shareholders. While pension funds are making progress on opposing high CEO pay, mutual fund managers are far more likely to "rubber stamp" high CEO pay, the report noted. As You Sow points to well-known fund managers, including Vanguard, BlackRock and TIAA-CREF, as most likely to approve high executive pay packages.

Just in time for proxy season, here's a list of the top 10 CEOs that As You Sow deems overpaid.

10. Jeffrey Immelt, General Electric

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  • Market Cap: $277 billion
  • 2014 Compensation: $37.2 million
  • Excess Pay: $24 million

Jeff Immelt has been chairman and CEO of General Electric (GE) - Get Report since 2001.

Immelt, who turns 60 on Feb. 19, saw his compensation increase more than $17 million between 2013 and 2014, thanks primarily to a change in his pension value and non-qualified deferred comp earnings, according to last year's proxy filing

GE's annualized five-year total shareholder return as of June 30, 2014, was 21.3%, compared with 18.8% for the S&P 500, according to the report.

9. Steven Mollenkopf, Qualcomm



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  • Market Cap: $72.3 billion
  • 2014 Compensation: $60.7 million
  • Excess Pay: $48.4 million

Steven Mollenkopf has been CEO of Qualcomm (QCOM) - Get Report , a San Diego-based semiconductor company, since March 2014. Mollenkopf's 2014 compensation was bloated by stock awards related to his promotion from COO to CEO that were valued at $58 million.

Of note, Qualcomm filed its 2016 proxy with the SEC in January. According to the filing, Mollenkopf's 2015 compensation was $10.3 million. 

Qualcomm's annualized five-year total shareholder return as of June 30, 2014, was 13.8%, compared with 18.8% for the S&P 500, according to the report.

8. Rex Tillerson, Exxon Mobil

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  • Market Cap: $340.7 billion
  • 2014 Compensation: $33.1 million
  • Excess Pay: $21.1 million

Rex Tillerson, 63, became chairman and CEO of oil and gas conglomerate Exxon Mobil (XOM) - Get Report  in 2006.

Tillerson's total compensation increased by approximately $4.9 million between 2013 and 2014. Of note, was a $4.7 million increase in Tillerson's pension value and nonqualified deferred comp earnings, according to Exxon's proxy filing last year. 

Exxon Mobil's annualized five-year total shareholder return as of June 30, 2014, was 10.4%, compared with 18.8% for the S&P 500, according to the report.


7. Marissa Mayer, Yahoo!

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  • Market Cap: $27.7 billion
  • 2014 Compensation: $42 million
  • Excess Pay: $29.3 million

Marissa Mayer, 40, has been CEO of Yahoo! (YHOO) since 2012. Mayer's compensation for 2014 rose by more than $17 million. Of note, the options awarded to Mayer in 2014 had a value of $28.2 million -- more than double the value of her option awards in 2013.

Yahoo's annualized five-year total shareholder return as of June 30, 2014, was 17.5%, compared with 18.8% for the S&P 500, according to the report.


6. Jeffrey Leiden, Vertex Pharmaceuticals

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  • Market Cap: $21.7 billion
  • 2014 Compensation: $36.6 million
  • Excess Pay: $23.4 million

Dr. Jeffrey Leiden has been the chairman and CEO of Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX) - Get Report , a Boston-based biotech and pharmaceutical company, since 2012.

Leiden's 2014 compensation increased by more than $23 million from 2013, aided by stock awards valued at $19.9 million and options valued at $12.3 million, according to the company's 2015 proxy filing

Vertex Pharmaceutical's annualized five-year total shareholder return as of June 30, 2014, was 21.4%, compared with 18.8% for the S&P 500, according to the report.

5. Satya Nadella, Microsoft

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.


  • Market Cap: $414.6 billion
  • 2014 Compensation: $84.3 million
  • Excess Pay: $71.8 million

Satya Nadella was promoted to CEO of Microsoft (MSFT) - Get Report in February 2014, succeeding Steve Ballmer at the helm of the software giant. Previously the executive was in charge of Microsoft's cloud business.

Nadella's 2014 compensation, valued at more than $84 million, was aided by stock awards related to his promotion valued at $59 million at grant date, according to the company's most recent proxy filing. Nadella will not be eligible to receive stock awards until 2019. 

For fiscal 2015, Nadella's compensation totaled $18.3 million.

Microsoft's annualized five-year total shareholder return as of June 30, 2014, was 14.8% compared with 18.8% for the S&P 500, according to the report.

4.Steve Ells/Monty Moran, Chipotle

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  • Market Cap: $15.4 billion
  • 2014 Compensation: $57 million (combined)
  • Excess Pay: $40.7 million

Steve Ells and Monty Moran share the chief executive position at fast-casual burrito chain Chipotle (CMG) - Get Report . Ells founded the Denver-based company in 1993. He was also appointed chairman in 2005. Moran has been co-CEO since January 2009.

Compensation for Ells in 2014 was $28.9 million, while Moran's compensation made $28.1 million.

Chipotle's annualized five-year total shareholder return as of June 30, 2014, was 49.3%, compared with 18.8% for the S&P 500, according to the report.
3. Leslie Moonves, CBS

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  • Market Cap: $22 billion
  • 2014 Compensation: $57.1 million
  • Excess Pay: $40 million

Leslie Moonves is president and CEO of CBS (CBS) - Get Report , the media conglomerate. He's held the position since 2006, following Viacom's split into two publicly traded companies.

Earlier this month, CBS chairman Sumner Redstone, the 92-year-old media mogul, stepped down from his position. Moonves was named Redstone's successor. 

Moonves' pay declined $9.8 million between 2013 and 2014.

CBS' annualized five-year total shareholder return (based on the company's "B" shares) as of June 30, 2014, was 56.8%, compared with 18.8% for the S&P 500, according to the report.

2.Safra Catz/Mark Hurd, Oracle

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  • Market Cap: $154 billion
  • 2014 Compensation: $75.3 million (combined)
  • Excess Pay: $62.8 million

Safra Catz and Mark Hurd share the chief executive position at software giant Oracle (ORCL) - Get Report . The two were named co-CEOs in September 2014 following Larry Ellison's step back from daily management responsibilities. Ellison remains Oracle's chairman and chief technology officer.

For the company's fiscal 2014 (the company runs on a June to May fiscal year), both Catz and Hurd had total compensation of approximately $37.6 million each.

Oracle filed a proxy filing in September 2015, reporting compensation for the 2015 fiscal year. The co-CEOs saw a significant jump in compensation to $53.2 million each, aided by stock awards.

Oracle's annualized five-year total shareholder return as of June 30, 2014, was 14.7%, compared with 18.8% for the S&P 500, according to the report.


1. David Zaslav, Discovery Communications

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  • Market Cap: $15.5 billion
  • 2014 Compensation: $156 million
  • Excess Pay: $142.2 million

David Zaslav has been at the helm of Discovery Communications (DISCA) - Get Report since 2007. Under his leadership, the cable-TV network began trading as a public company in September 2008. Channels such as Animal Planet, American Heroes Channel, TLC and the Oprah Winfrey Network fall under the Discovery umbrella.

Zaslav's compensation was valued at $33.3 million in 2013. The value of his total compensation saw a significant jump in 2014 due to stock awards granted in 2014 as well as the value of option awards. The two awards combined were valued at $144 million, according to the company's proxy filing.

Discovery's annualized five-year total shareholder return as of June 30, 2014, was 27%, compared with 18.8% for the S&P 500, according to the report.