A New Measure Shows C.E.O. Pay at Even More Astronomical Levels


A footnote in the Palantir compensation disclosure made me laugh, which was noteworthy because these compensation disclosures usually make me frown.

Referring to Mr. Karp’s apparently gargantuan payday, it said: “The term ‘compensation actually paid’ or ‘CAP’ does not reflect the amount of compensation actually paid, earned or received by him during the applicable year.”

In reality, Palantir said, the numbers reported for Mr. Karp and a handful of other Palantir executives “are driven primarily by changes in our stock price,” which rose more than 100 percent in 2023, producing big gains for shareholders and so, “following S.E.C. disclosure rules, the fiscal year 2023 CAP disclosed below has increased.” But the previous year, 2022, was a miserable one for the whole stock market. Palantir shares fell sharply, as did the value of Mr. Karp’s compensation, using the New Accounting approach. For 2022, the company said, he lost more than $1.7 billion.

These staggering, fluctuating sums would be perplexing in isolation. Still, they serve a purpose, I think. Big changes in this measure are a sign that a C.E.O. received enormous compensation packages involving company stock in the past. For example, The Times reported that for 2020, Mr. Karp received $1.1 billion in Traditional Pay, the most for any chief executive that year.

Similarly, Broadcom reported that in 2023, Mr. Tan’s compensation with the New Accounting was $767,654,487, almost five times his already rich compensation on the Traditional Pay list. That happened because the share price rose and Mr. Tan, the chief executive of his company since 2006, had amassed a great deal of stock, options and the like.

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