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Who pulls in the biggest paychecks? Latest IRS filings reveal top earners

Former API head Jack Gerard tops list of 25 highest-paid association chief executives

Jan. 31, 2020
By Mark R. Graham

Trade groups are increasingly turning to incentive pay to reward top-tier CEOs, new reports show.

The median combined base and bonus increase for the 25 highest-paid CEOs was 7.1%, according to the latest tax disclosures from 2018 and early 2019. That’s up from 6.6% and 5% in the previous two years and represents the highest median increase in seven years.

And in a group where the lowest salary is more than $2.3 million, a 7.1% increase comes out to more than $165,000.

Bonus compensation as a portion of overall pay is significantly higher among these CEOs, typically ranging from 53% to 114% of base pay. In some cases, the bonuses were more than double base pay. In comparison, bonus pay for all $50 million-plus revenue trade groups ranges from 20% to 71%.

Incentive pay for Scott Serota, outgoing CEO of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, was triple his base pay in 2018. U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue’s bonus was five times his base pay.