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Who are the 1%?

Tim Cook

By Duncan Wilson

Remember the Occupy protests last year? Swathes of Americans, disenchanted with a system they claimed is rigged in favour of the richest 1%, took to the streets and parks near Wall Street in an effort to halt proceedings.

Proceedings that would presumably allow the rich to get even richer.

The Occupy protests are destined to become just another blip in the history of Capitalism, as the New York Times proved last week when it released its list of the 200 public company CEOs with the highest wealth.

Just a quick glance down the list is truly astonishing. Go on, take a look. And dream.

Last year, the median pay rise amongst the top 200 last year was 5 percent. While it's smaller than that of 2010, it's sure bound to wind up the champions of the 99% - taking the USA's current unemployment rates into account.

8.2 percent of Americans are now unemployed, the figure rising in May from 8.1 percent the previous month. Based on those figures, more than 310,000 Americans lost their jobs last month. (Should that trend continue, and it's extremely unlikely that it should, the USA would reach 100 percent unemployment in just 76.5 years!)

These woes are certain to inspire empathy from the rich list's largest slumper. Phillippe Dauman, CEO of Viacom, the company that brings us Comedy Central, Nickelodeon and VH1, saw an earnings drop of 49 percent year on year. Adding together his 2011 salary, bonuses, perks, stocks awards and options, we see that Mr. Dauman's pay had crashed to just $43,077,942.

However, with the list's median compensation at $14.5 million, he's a long way from dropping off it.

Receiving the list's top compensation is Apple's Tim Cook. Adding together his company gatherings, Mr. Cook amassed nine-figures at around $378 million. Most of this is a one-off stock payout, so he's sure to see a drop in next year's table.

These figures were released due to a government ruling that publicly held companies must release annual proxy statements, and new US rules now ensure that shareholders now have a say in the CEO's pay.

In a lot of companies, exec pay is also now linked to company performance on the exchange. If the value doesn't rise, the CEO's remuneration doesn't rise.

Sounds like a bizarre system prior, but CEO pay had become disconnected from performance and many agree this needed addressing. Figures show that companies are more prone to awarding stock, that cannot be traded for several years, as opposed to simple cash bonuses.

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