Brink: Which Florida companies have the biggest gaps between CEO and worker pay?

For the first time, publicly traded companies must disclose the ratio between what they pay their CEO and their median worker.  [Shutterstock illustration]
For the first time, publicly traded companies must disclose the ratio between what they pay their CEO and their median worker. [Shutterstock illustration]
Published May 22, 2018

The typical Publix employee earns $19,531. At Duke Energy, it's $122,365. Home Depot: $21,095.

Last year, that financial information would have been hard to find. Now, it's easy, thanks to a new requirement that publicly traded companies disclose the ratio between what they pay their CEO and their median worker.

The idea, enshrined in the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, was to give shareholders more information to scrutinize CEO compensation, especially when comparing leaders running similar companies.

The disclosures also provide an intriguing, though limited, look into some of our best-known corporations.

Among local heavyweights, Wellcare Health Plans reported the highest total compensation for its median worker at $78,193. Mosaic, the phosphate and potash producer, would have been tops at $88,792, but it has not yet officially moved its headquarters to Hillsborough County.

RELATED COVERAGE: WellCare CEO Kenneth Burdick's pay rose to $11.3 million in 2017

Who is Mosaic: A primer on the new Fortune 500 company moving to Hillsborough.

Food service equipment manufacturer Welbilt was closer to the local average at $40,836, as was beverage maker and distributor Cott Corp at $46,924. (Several local heavyweights, including Raymond James, Bloomin' Brands and Jabil, have not yet filed their financial reports with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.)

As for national brands: Coke ($47,321) pays almost exactly the same as Pepsi ($47,801). Florida based competitors Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line were close, too: $18,320 and $20,428 respectively.

The CEO of tobacco giant Philip Morris ($19 million) makes 990 times more than his typical employee ($19,170).

Would-be bankers might find it interesting to know that Goldman Sachs pays $135,165 compared to Bank of America ($87,115) JPMorgan Chase ($77,799) and Wells Fargo ($60,446).

Got some tech chops? Facebook's median worker raked in $240,430, more than Google's $197,274 and Intel's $102,100.

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Shoppers particularly concerned with the pay gap might reassess their habits when they find out Walmart paid its CEO 1,181 times more than its typical worker, while Target's ratio was a slimmer, though still higher than average, 408 to 1.

Thanks to CEOs who work for relative peanuts, several companies had much tighter pay ratios, including Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and home goods seller Wayfair, both of which reported a 2 to 1 ratio. Google CEO Larry Page worked for just $1 in 2017, creating a nearly zero to 1 ratio.

Many of the local companies had a CEO to median worker pay ratio close to the national average of about 130 to 1, including Cott at 132 to 1 and door manufacturer Masonite International at 106 to 1. Staffing agency KForce came in at 96 to 1.

Conversely, Sykes Enterprises scored a 406 to 1, though that ratio illustrates some of the limitations of the new disclosure requirements.

Many of Sykes' 55,000 employees are part time and work in other countries, including the Philippines, India, China, El Salvador and Costa Rica, where the average pay can be much lower than the United States. That drove the company's median pay down to $10,450, compared to CEO Chuck Sykes' $4.2 million.

Other companies with lots of overseas or part-time workers ran into the same unflattering math, made even more stark by extreme CEO pay. McDonalds, for instance, came in at 3,101 to 1 — $21.8 million for the CEO compared to $7,017 for the typical employee. Toymaker Mattel scored an eye-popping 4,981 to 1, thanks in part to the CEO receiving $31.3 million, including $22 million in one-time payments.

Publix went so far as to calculate the median pay for all employees ($19,531 or 127 to 1) and just full time workers ($40,135 or 62 to 1).

Location within the United States can explain some of the pay differences, as well. Take Verizon and rival AT&T. Verizon ($127,000) paid its typical worker 60 percent more than AT&T's median worker ($78,000). The difference, in part, could be chalked up to AT&T being based in lower-cost Texas and Verizon working out of pricier New York and New Jersey.

In addition, some companies contract out lower-paying jobs, keeping more valuable, and higher paid, employees on the payroll. That can raise the median pay, improving the ratio with the CEO's compensation.

Steven Seelig, an expert on executive compensation and a senior regulatory adviser at Willis Towers Watson, used the example of a manufacturing company with a unionized workforce and all of it factories in the United States.

"That company's pay ratio is going to look a lot different from a company in the same sector that has a lot of part time workers or has off-shored much of its workforce," he said. "You have to look carefully at how a company is doing business."

There's even a little leeway in how companies go about picking whom they choose as their specific median worker, including whether to include cash bonuses, company funded insurance premiums and pension contributions.

Many corporations won't talk about the disclosures publicly, though some have complained that the numbers are misleading and intended to shame them into lowering CEO pay.

Last year, Vanguard Investment Stewardship Officer Glenn Booraem predicted that the disclosures would "perhaps do more to inflame than to inform."

So far, Seelig said shareholders do not appear "overly concerned" with the pay ratios. They remain more focused on CEO pay, which has been disclosed for years. There have been some grumbling, including for local governments, about possibly using the pay ratio when considering issuing contracts to companies or even imposing additional taxes based on the ration, but not much has come of that yet.

Seelig said pay ratio disclosures were set up in part to grab attention, a "blunt instrument to raise consternation." He pointed to the "wealth of resources out there these days" that anyone can use to determine if they are being paid fairly.

"There are legitimate questions about pay equity," he said. "But don't jump to conclusions based just on the pay ratio."

Contact Graham Brink at Follow @GrahamBrink.

CEO pay versus the median employee

For the first time, most publicly traded companies have to report to the Securities and Exchange Commission what their CEOs are paid compared to their typical worker. For instance, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein earned $22 million in total compensation in 2017 compared to $135,165 for his typical employee, or a 161 to 1 ratio. Some companies, including local heavyweights Raymond James, Bloomin' Brands and Jabil, use a different fiscal year, so they haven't yet reported their pay ratio.

Here's a look at what some other local companies, and a few national behemoths, reported.

Tampa Bay companies

Cott Corp

132 to 1; $6.2 million to $46,924

CEO Jerry Fowden


96 to 1; $3.1 million to $32,015

CEO David Dunkel

Masonite International Corp.

106 to 1; $4.2 million to $39,392

CEO Frederick Lynch


94 to 1; $8.4 million to $88,792

CEO James "Joc" C. O'Rourke

Superior Group of Companies

313 to 1; $3 million to $9,640

CEO Michael Benstock

Sykes Enterprises

406 to 1; $4.2 million to $10,450

CEO Charles E. Sykes

Tech Data

138 to 1; $7.3 million to $53,421

CEO Robert Dutkowsky


91 to 1; $3.7 million to $40,836

CEO Hubertus Muehlhaeuser


145 to 1; $11.3 million to $78,139

CEO Ken Burdick

*Has announced it is moving its headquarters to Hillsborough County

Big local presence

Duke Energy

175 to 1; $21.4 million to $122,365

CEO Lynn Good

Fifth Third Bank

145 to 1; $8.7 million to $60,078

CEO Greg D. Carmichael


62 to 1 (full-time employees only); $2.48 million to $40,135

127 to 1 (all employees); $2.48 million to $19,531

CEO Todd Jones


172 to 1; $24.9 million to $144,589

CEO Thomas Kennedy

Other Florida companies


27 to 1; $2.65 million to $98,697

CEO James Foote


263 to 1; $8.05 million to $30,645

CEO Kathryn Marinello

NextEra (owns FPL)

155 to 1; $18.8 million to $121,355

CEO James Robo

Norwegian Cruise Line

514 to 1; $10.5 million to $20,428

CEO Frank Del Rio

Royal Caribbean

728 to 1; $13.3 million to $18,320

CEO Richard Fain

Ryder System

138 to 1; $6.13 million to $44,344

CEO Robert E. Sanchez

World Fuel Services

99 to 1; $5.51 million to $55,741

CEO Michael J. Kasbar

National heavyweights

Alphabet (Google)

Zero (0.000005) to 1;

$1 to $197,274

CEO Larry Page

Domino's Pizza

461 to 1; $7.9 million to $17,226

CEO J. Patrick Doyle


4,987 to 1;

$31.3 million to $6,271

Former CEO Margaret Georgiadis

(Inflated by a one time CEO payment. 1,527 to 1 without the payment.)

McDonald's Corp.

3,101 to 1; $21.8 million to $7,017

CEO Steve Easterbrook


408 to 1; $8.4 million to $20,581

CEO Brian Cornell


1,181 to 1; $22.8 million to $19,177

CEO Doug McMillon