Arizona State University professor Luis Gomez-Mejia recently went looking for a correlation between executive compensation and stock performance in an analysis of more than 300 published studies on pay and corporate performance. His conclusion: There isn't one.

Given the dreary performance of the stock market and the stream of stories highlighting executive pay run amok, investors might even think stock returns and executive pay are negatively correlated. Consider: The S&P 500 fell 23.4% in 2002, yet the average CEO earned $10.8 million in pay, bonuses and options, according to the AFL-CIO.

Of course, much of corporate America, Wall Street, the media and individual investors still tie the two together. Compensation committees heaped massive stock-option grants on executives during the past decade -- a practice that smacks of rigor but facilitated more unproductive greed than any other bull-market custom.

What's more, many CEOs took credit for their stock's heady gains during the one-way bull market of the 1990s, and many investors assigned sole blame to the same CEOs for the one-way bear market of the past three years. It is unlikely so many CEOs lost their touch at the same time. Many factors that went into, say, Qualcomm's ( QCOM) 2,619% rise in 1999 or its 27.9% fall in 2002 were forces beyond the control of Chief Executive Irwin Jacobs (of course, the rich stock-option package he received does fall largely within his control, but that's another matter).

We here at TheStreet.com are all about fairness toward the executives of corporate America. This proxy statement season, amid reports of eight-figure pay packages for executives whose stocks spent the year in freefall, we sought to use a more appropriate measure against which to compare CEO pay. For guidance, we turned to Warren Buffett, as many investors do these days. "The primary test of managerial economic performance is the achievement of a high earnings rate on equity capital employed (without undue leverage, accounting gimmickry, etc.)," wrote Buffett in a 1983 letter to shareholders.

With that in mind, we introduce ROE v. Paid, a weeklong series comparing how executives stack up in terms of compensation and return on equity. Return on equity, or ROE, derived by dividing common stock equity into net income before dividends, is one of the easiest and best ways for investors to determine how effectively their money is being employed. Over the next week, we will list every company in the S&P 500, ranking them by their average five-year return on equity (we also include one-year ROE) and including the most recently reported compensation level for its CEO, as compiled by the data-crunchers at eComponline.com . Since it's a rather long list, we've broken up the stories and ROE v. Paid charts into the 10 industry categories as defined by the S&P 500. Oh, and for the stock-market scorekeepers out there, we also included every company's stock performance during the year.

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