One of my favorite voyeuristic pastimes is reading about the compensation of corporate CEOs. Every year, the Star Tribune’s business staff helpfully compiles a list of the highest-paid executives, and when a new paycheck becomes public, we publish it. Recent revelations include outgoing Target CEO Robert Ulrich’s nearly $116 million windfall and Best Buy CEO Brad Anderson’s $49.3 million total compensation last year.
We only know about these salaries because the federal government requires them as a way of giving investors more information about the companies they own. The agency that is supposed to regulate Wall Street, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, has a searchable database with the friendly name of EDGAR. It has regular corporate filings that have a plethora of information about a company’s financial condition, executive compensation, legal troubles and other info.
Most of the Minnesota millionaires look like paupers compared to hedge fund managers, according to a recent New York Times story. One of them, John Paulson, took in $3.7 billion last year because of his skill betting on drops in the mortgage industry, among other clever ventures. Just for comparison’s sake, that amount earned by that individual is nearly four times the budget deficit tormenting the Minnesota Legislature. By another measure, Paulson’s pay equals the annual salaries of 304,000 workers earning today’s minimum wage of $5.85 per hour. And it’s about the same as the gross domestic product last year of Tajikistan, a Central Asian nation of 7 million people.