The average pay for the CEOs of the largest companies in the US hit $14.7 million last year, according to the Wall Street Journal’s latest analysis, setting a record high for the sixth year running.
In 2020, CEO average pay was $13.1 million, meaning total compensation rose by 12 percent for the top executives in 2021, including equity awards. Median salary, bonus and cash compensation averaged $4.1 million.
The top 25 CEOs earned more than $35 million last year, with the highest-paid executives in the technology and media sectors, according to the analysis.
The highest-paid CEO last year was Peter Kern, earning $296 million from online travel company Expedia. The second-highest was David Zaslav, who earned $246 million as the head of Discovery.
Warren Buffet, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, earned less than $5 million last year, as did Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.
Stéphane Bancel, the head of pharmaceutical company Moderna, earned $18.2 million last year, up 41 percent from 2020. Moderna helped create effective COVID-19 vaccines to combat the pandemic and became the second-best performing company last year, according to the Journal.
Billionaires have seen skyrocketing increases in their fortunes during the pandemic.
A joint analysis from Americans for Tax Fairness and the Institute for Policy Studies published in January found that between March 18, 2020 and April 15, 2021, the combined wealth of US billionaires increased by $1.6 trillion, a 55 percent increase.
At the same time, the pandemic has exacerbated global inequality. The United Nations reported that world poverty had been declining for the past 25 years until 2021, when 100 million additional people became impoverished.
There are more than 700 billionaires in the US with a combined wealth of $4.56 trillion. Some of the richest people whose wealth grew last year include Musk, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
President Biden has proposed tax increases for corporations and households earning more than $400,000 to ensure they pay their fair share.