VINNEE TONG

NEW YORK (AP) ¿ U.S. companies remain generous with the perks they give to CEOs, including some that are unfathomable to the average American worker: chauffeured cars, bodyguards, club memberships and free travel in company jets.

The median value of these and similar perks rose nearly 7 percent in 2008, according to an Associated Press analysis of regulatory filings from 309 companies in the Standard & Poor's 500. The increase came even as overall CEO compensation fell 7 percent to $7.6 million.

Perks rose despite a public backlash against such benefits, which many investors and lawmakers deem excessive. They argue well-paid executives should cover the costs of life insurance, charitable donations and financial planning themselves, especially as companies struggle with falling profits, slumping stock prices and massive job cuts.

Even some compensation consultants are saying enough is enough.

"Those are things the average person, the average Joe, doesn't have, so we're saying, don't give them perks," said Paul Dorf, a managing director at pay consultant Compensation Resources Inc.

But plenty of companies are keeping the spigots open. Occidental Petroleum CEO Ray Irani, for example, received $400,000 worth of financial planning, part of a $30 million pay package in 2008. To put it another way, that $400,000 in financial planning is more than the total annual household income of the vast majority of Americans. Occidental spokesman Richard Kline said the comprehensive financial planning helps Irani to "keep his complete attention on the company's business."

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