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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Who is the most overpaid CEO? It's Ronald Clarke of Fleetcor Technologies, or so says a new study that analyzes performance and pay.
What's happening: The main culprits spotlighted by As You Sow, a non-profit dedicated to shareholder advocacy, are CEOs who take home massive paychecks but whose companies come up short on total shareholder return (a metric that tracks a company's stock, including reinvestment, annualized for 5 years).
The group identified 100 such CEOs, a number of whom take home more than 1,000 times what the median employee at their firm does and have their pay packages challenged by investors.
Why it matters: CEO's growing demand for richer salaries are often leading them to value short-term gains over long-term results, prioritizing stock buybacks that temporarily pump up a company's stock price over long-term investments in employees and growth.
That's bad for the individual companies and for the country, advocates say.
"The crisis we're in today of inequality has a lot to do with what has been happening in executive suites."— Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich, during As You Sow's call with reporters on Thursday
The organization says large U.S.-based asset managers like BlackRock, Vanguard and StateStreet continually rubber stamp exorbitant executive pay packages opposed by individual investors, pension funds and more discerning European asset managers.
Northern Trust, which manages $1.1 trillion in assets, did not vote against any pay deals.
The numbers that matter: This has continued despite poor returns for investors, says Rosanna Landis-Weaver, As You Sow's program manager.
Rounding out the top 10 companies with the most overpaid CEOs:
2. Oracle (which topped the list last year)
4. Mondelez International
5. Wynn Resorts
6. Walt Disney
Go deeper: Corporate CEOs took home more than you think
Thanks to the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, shareholders gained access to new information this year.
"If you look at the pay of top CEOs relative to workers, that ratio in the 1950s was 20 to 1, was about 30 to 1 by the late '70s, and by the mid-1990s it was 120 to 1," Robert Reich, who served as Labor Secretary for President Bill Clinton, said during Thursday's call with reporters. "When I was working in the White House that was a cause of real concern. That ratio seemed appalling to most people. Now it’s 300 to 1."
Finding employees who actually like their job through Glassdoor, where workers rate their employer, can add up to 5 percentage points of alpha per year, according to analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
What's happening: While the site has been inundated with 5-star reviews that look more like "corporate gaming" than honest assessments these days, BAML's global research team says screening for longer reviews and using text-based deep learning algorithms has proven the website still useful for investors.
Analysts said they screened for longer than average (30 words) reviews and text sentiment factors to cut through the noise of Glassdoor's now obviously compromised star reviews.
"Text sentiment was important, in that we found inconsistencies within reviews — for example, a reviewer might assign a positive rating to a company that was at odds with a strongly negative written response in the pros and cons section."
Foreigners sold $77.35 billion in U.S. Treasury debt in December, the most recent month for which data is available.
That's the largest outflow since the U.S. government started recording Treasury debt transactions in January 1978, data shows.
Why it matters: U.S. demand for Treasuries has remained incredibly strong since late last year and in fact has increased as yields have fallen, meaning investors are being paid less to hold the debt.
Deutsche Bank Chief International Economist Torsten Slok notes that foreigners sold a total of $91 billion of U.S. stocks and bonds in December, with around 85% of that being U.S. government debt.
Despite this significant upward pressure on Treasury yields during the stock market rout (because selling leads to lower prices, meaning yields should rise), benchmark 10-year yields fell from 3.20% in November to 2.60% in December.
With more than 80% of S&P 500 companies now having reported fourth quarter results, it's becoming clear that sales growth is slowing but profit growth has plunged, Axios' Courtenay Brown writes.
Why it matters: Profit margins are the tightest since 2017. Companies are blaming rising labor and material costs.
Bonus stat: The percentage of S&P companies beating profit expectations trails the 5-year average. The number of companies that have topped sales estimates are above the 5-year average so far.
Being a unicorn — a private company worth a billion dollars — isn't cool. You know what's cool? Raising a billion dollars, Axios' Felix Salmon writes.
Just yesterday, food delivery company DoorDash announced $400 million in new venture capital funding, bringing its total funding to $1.37 billion.
The big picture: Meet the minotaurs — our term for the companies that would be worth more than $1 billion even if the only thing they did was to take the cash that they have raised and put it in a checking account.
The rise of the minotaur reflects a new form of investing, epitomized by Japan's SoftBank, and a new form of company-building, dubbed "blitzscaling" by entrepreneurs Reid Hoffman and Chris Yeh.
The big idea: If you have enough money, your investments can become self-fulfilling prophecies. The trick is to find a really big market with winner-takes-all economics. Then, spend an unholy amount of money on growing as fast as you can, and no one else will be able to touch you.
Blitzscaling isn't designed to be healthy for the economy. It's a deliberate attempt to build a monopoly that can't be competed against unless you have pockets that are billions of dollars deep.
History: Kwame Nkrumah was the first president of Ghana. A politician, pan-Africanist and revolutionary, he led the country to independence from the U.K. in 1957, and was a founding member of the Organization of African Unity, the first-ever union of African countries and a forerunner of today's African Union.
Under Nkrumah, forestry, fishing and cattle-breeding expanded, and production of cocoa — Ghana's No.1 export — doubled.
Nkrumah initiated the Ghana Nuclear Reactor Project, created the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission and introduced a 7-year plan in 1964 focused on further industrialization, emphasizing domestic substitutes for common imports, modernizing the building materials industry, machine making and electronics.
He began the construction of a hydroelectric power plant, the Akosombo Dam, on the country's Volta River that he projected would provide "the quickest and most certain method of leading [Ghana] towards economic independence."
He was voted African Man of the Millennium by listeners of the BBC, which described Nkrumah as a "Hero of Independence" and "international symbol of freedom as the leader of the first black African country to shake off the chains of colonial rule."