Executive compensation is a hot-button issue, particularly in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and reforms enacted under the Dodd-Frank Act.
Increasingly, shareholders are asking whether CEOs are worth many millions of dollars in annual compensation. Using a new rule called "Say on Pay," shareholders now get a nonbinding vote for or against an executive's compensation.
As a result, at least one well-known CEO was driven from his perch this year: In April, Citigroup shareholders voted against Vikram Pandit's pay package. By October, Pandit was out.
CNBC.com sifted through data from the S&P 500 to find the 21 CEOs with the largest average compensation packages over the last four years, from 2007 to 2011. (Figures for 2012 are incomplete.)
The source of the compensation data is CapIQ.
Compensation is defined as salary, cash bonus, stock awards, option awards, nonequity incentive plan, change in pension value, and all other compensation (such as contributions to 401(k)s and life insurance premium payments). Some of the CEOs on our list have been with their companies for less than four years, and those cases are noted.
We also looked at each company's year-to-date stock percentage gain.
Are these executives - all raking in an average of $25 million or more - worth it?
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By Deborah Caldwell and Gina Francolla