Compensation: How Sweet It Was

Faced with public outrage, the SEC gives shareholders a say in executive pay

The opulent salaries and perks enjoyed by many U.S. corporate executives have touched a raw nerve in a time of massive layoffs and dismal profits. Irate unions and shareholders have demanded that business chiefs be held more accountable for the fat compensation packages they get. Congress has threatened to pass legislation to curb excess corporate pay if regulators fail to take on the task. Sensing the growing outrage, Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Richard Breeden unveiled a set of reforms last week that will make corporate boards think twice before handing out multimillion-dollar paychecks to top executives.

Under the SEC's plan,...

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