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September 03, 2021

Highest-paid CEOs also layoff the most workers: study

It’s a real soul-wrenching thing, getting laid off is.

Was I not good enough? Was I not assertive enough? Didn’t I show ambition? Was it … was it someone else?

But for anyone who’s ever received a notice of termination and wondered why, this news is for you. Consider:

A new study from has shed light on some troubling trends regarding companies that have laid off thousands, and the CEOs who run them.

Namely, that since the recession began to take hold in 2008, the chief execs that agreed to lay off the most workers have also received higher compensation than their CEO counterparts.

According to Marketwatch, the CEOs of the 50 firms that laid off the most employees in the past two years earned 42 per cent more in salary and perks than the average boss of an S&P 500 company.

Of those 50 layoff-happy companies, their CEOs earned about $12 million on average last year; compare that to the rest of the S&P 500 bosses, who earned an average of $8.5 million in 2009.

This trend, as the study quotes, reflects the new mandate of the business world: “squeezing workers to boost profits and maintain high CEO pay.”

Now, what isn’t said in the Marketwatch study is if the singled-out CEOs’ pay increased  because of the widespread layoffs or was just sky high to begin with, yet there’s still enough troubling data in the survey to draw the ire of anyone out of a job.

Not only did the top money-making CEOs – ex-Schering Plough boss Fred Hassan ($46.65 million in 2009), Johnson & Johnson chief William Weldon ($25.57 million) and ex-HP honcho Mark Hurd ($25.57 million) – lay off 16,000, 8,900 and 6,400 workers, respectively, last year, but five of the 50 layoff-happy companies received bailout money from their home governments. That money, it stands to reason, helped bloat the compensation of CEOs last year rather than keep workers from the unemployment line.

Further, Marketwatch notes, 72 per cent of announced layoffs during the recession came at a time when the company doing the axing was reporting positive earnings.

Sounds like many layoffs, then, haven’t been to protect the company’s bottom line. Sounds like they’ve been to protect someone else’s.

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...