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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Many corporate boards made mid-pandemic changes to the intricate formulas that determine CEO pay, with directors declaring that COVID was an extraordinary event beyond executives' control, AP reports.

Why it matters: As a result, pay packages rose last year for CEOs of the biggest companies, even though the pandemic sent the economy to its worst quarter on record.

The median pay package for a CEO at an S&P 500 company hit $12.7 million in 2020, according to data analyzed for AP by Equilar. (That means half of the 342 CEOs in the survey made more, and half made less.)

  • 61% of the CEOs got a boost in compensation last year.

How it works: Several CEOs took high-profile salary cuts as an act of shared sacrifice. Roughly one of every five CEOs in this year’s survey had a smaller salary for 2020 than the year before.

  • But salary is often a minor piece of a CEO’s total compensation, which is derived from notoriously complex formulas. Each year, companies fill pages of their proxy statements with charts and footnotes showing how the bulk of their CEO’s pay rises and falls with corporate performance.
  • That nuanced area is where many companies adjusted levers.

Go deeper

Sep 4, 2021 - Health

Biden's high-stakes booster tension with Moderna

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A disagreement between the Biden administration and Moderna over booster shot details has thrown a wrench in the administration's plans, and may result in the booster effort beginning with only some Pfizer recipients later this month.

Why it matters: How the dispute shakes out could have implications for the global vaccine supply chain — as well as for Moderna's bottom line.

Updated 14 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Kentucky governor calls state lawmakers into special session on COVID

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear at the University of Louisville Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, Kentucky, in April. Photo: Jon Cherry/Getty Images

Gov. Andy Beshear is calling Kentucky's GOP-led legislature into a special session next week on policies to address surging COVID-19 cases in the state.

Why it matters: The Democratic governor had imposed a series of emergency pandemic measures, but the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled last month that a lower court had incorrectly blocked state Republicans from limiting his executive authority.