Fast Company manipulates the numbers to demonize CEOs, push agenda

September 14, 2023

By Tim Worstall

Fast Company reports in a new article that American CEOs are grossly overpaid. The problem is that they’re not – the median CEO pay is $189,520. No, that’s right, there are 199,240 CEOs in the U.S. About 200k CEOs and the median average pay is $200k. Sure, it’s a nice amount to get, but it’s not billionaire riches.

But that’s not what we get from Fast Company. Instead:

“The question of what fair actually means when it comes to CEO pay is incredibly complicated (this essay can help formulate some answers) and the data pulled together here reflects a single moment in time. That’s an important distinction: Unlike most workers, CEOs often don’t have to work many hours to start earning big bucks.

“Don’t shed any tears for the lowest-paid CEOs, because many of them received generous stock bonuses in previous fiscal years and are already billionaires, despite showing a degree of modesty in their most recent filings. On the flip side, executives with eye-popping pay in this latest round of filings tip the scales in large part because this is their year to reap those huge stock payouts.” 

Following Fast Company logic, just get into the corner office, and you’ll be flying private for the rest of your life. But as those first numbers show (and they’re from the government, the Bureau of Labor Statistics), that just isn’t true.


We can see where Fast Company goes wrong because they use as their example Bob Iger at Disney: “Understanding out-of-control CEO pay—and why it’s a problem.”

Iger is their poster child for this “out of control” pay.


“Iger’s November 2022 contract with Disney included a base salary of $1 million, the potential for a bonus equal to 100% of that salary, and $25 million in Disney equity, for a total of $27 million. ‘There he is sitting in his designer clothes, just got off his private jet at the billionaire’s camp, telling us we’re unrealistic, when he’s making $78,000 a day,’ SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher said in a livestream with Senator Bernie Sanders days later.”


Well, yes. The average actor indeed makes little. But the star actor makes a fortune. Several actors working for Disney make more than Iger for just one movie. More than $27 million for just one film, that is.


But those are the stars, right? The movie stars – yes, but the CEOs mentioned are also the stars. There are, pretty much by definition, only 500 Fortune 500 CEOs. Just like there are only some small group of movie stars who get the big money. But this is where the misinformation is. Given that this is deliberate, we can call it disinformation, being deliberately misleading. Numbers are being used to confuse us and to tell us untruths.


Sure, the top 0.25% of CEOs (500 of 200,000 doing the job is one quarter of one percent) get a lot of money. So do the top 0.25% of actors get a lot of money. But we’re shown the pay of just the top 0.25% of CEOs against all actors. Or against all employees.


As we say, this is deliberately misleading to the point that it’s disinformation. Showing us the star pay in one job against the average pay in another job really is just that – disinformation. Star CEOs get about the same – sometimes less, in fact – than star actors, star sports people, and star musicians. Average CEOs get decent but not colossal pay – like average actors, athletes and musicians do.

But these reports about CEO pay always, but always, only tell us about the stars and never do compare with either the average for the job or what stars elsewhere get.


Deliberate disinformation through the manipulation of numbers.


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