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Photo: 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.

"Overpaid CEOs underperform financially," Paul Herman, CEO of HIP Investors, who helped craft the list of worst CEOs, tells Axios.

  • In fact, he says, the average "overpaid" CEO makes $11 million to $53 million more than the average CEO at an S&P 500 company.

Context: Clarke of Fleetcor Technologies is not overpaid because he makes more than $52 million a year. It's because he earns 1,517 times the average salary of a Fleetcor employee, has delivered unimpressive results for Fleetcor's stock holders and just 14% of shareholders voted to approve his pay.

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.

  • "We found that the 10 companies we identified as having the most overpaid CEOs, in aggregate, underperformed the S&P 500 index by an incredible 10.5 percentage points and actually destroyed shareholder value, with a negative 5.7% financial return."
  • "In analyzing almost 4 years of returns for these 10 companies we find that they lag the S&P 500 by 14.3 percentage points, posting an overall loss in value of over 11%."

Rounding out the top 10 companies with the most overpaid CEOs:

2. Oracle (which topped the list last year)

3. Broadcom

4. Mondelez International

5. Wynn Resorts

6. Walt Disney

7. TransDigm

8. AIG

9. Mattel

10. CSX

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Scoop: U.S. begins denying Afghan immigrants

Afghan refugees on a bus bound for temporary housing after arriving in Greece. Photo: Byron Smith/Getty Images

The Biden administration has begun issuing denials to Afghans seeking to emigrate to the United States through the humanitarian parole process, after a system that typically processes 2,000 applications annually has been flooded with more than 30,000.

Why it matters: Afghans face steeper odds and longer processes for escaping to the U.S., despite the earlier sweeping efforts by the Biden administration to assist its allies. Immigration lawyers and advocacy groups say the government has set untenable barriers to a safe haven in the U.S.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Dems invoke Robert Byrd to sell Manchin on Senate rules changes

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photos: Diana Walker, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A small group of Senate Democrats is privately invoking the legacy of late West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd in an effort to sway Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to support their plans to change the chamber's rules, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Manchin — who holds Byrd's Senate seat — has often referenced his predecessor's strong moral conviction and insistence on preserving the Senate as an institution, as justification for some of his tough positions.

House votes to ban imports from Xinjiang over forced labor concerns

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The House voted 428-1 on Wednesday to pass a bill that would ban all imports from the Chinese region of Xinjiang unless the U.S. government determines that the products were not made with forced labor.

Why it matters: Both the Trump and Biden administrations, as well as several foreign parliaments, have recognized China's repression of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang as genocide.