News Release

Overtime Hours for Bullshit Pay


Labor Day is Monday, September 4. Folk singer David Rovics just released his adaptation of Oliver Anthony’s viral hit “Rich Men North of Richmond.”

SARAH ANDERSON,, @inequalityorg
Anderson directs the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies and co-edits the IPS website Alperstein is deputy communications director at IPS.
Anderson is author of the just released report “Executive Excess 2023” which finds “the ‘Low-Wage 100’ large corporations have spent more than $340 billion on stock buybacks since 2020.”

Key findings:

1. The CEO-worker pay gap at the Low-Wage 100 averaged 603 to 1 in 2022

  • Chief executives in this group raked in $15.3 million on average in 2022, while median worker pay averaged just $31,672.
  • Live Nation Entertainment had the fattest CEO paycheck and the widest pay gap. Michael Rapino hauled in $139 million, 5,414 times as much as his firm’s median of $25,673.

2. The Low-Wage 100 have spent more than $340 billion on stock buybacks since 2020

  • Between January 1, 2020 and May 31, 2023, 90 of the Low-Wage 100 reported combined stock buyback expenditures of $341.2 billion. This maneuver artificially inflates executive stock-based pay and siphons funds from worker wages and other productive investments.
  • Lowe’s led the buybacks list, spending $34.9 billion on share repurchases over the past three and a half years. In 2022 alone, Lowe’s spent more than $14.1 billion on buybacks — enough to give every one of its 301,000 U.S. employees a $46,923 bonus.
  • Home Depot came in second, with $28.9 billion in stock buybacks since January 2020, and Walmart ranks third, with $23.9 billion.

3. During their stock buyback spree, Low-Wage 100 CEOs’ personal stock holdings       increased more than three times as fast as their firms’ median worker pay

  • The CEOs of the 90 low-wage S&P 500 companies that have spent funds on buybacks since 2020 have amassed approximately $14.9 billion worth of their company stock.
  • At the 65 buyback companies where the same person held the top job between 2019 and 2022, the CEOs’ personal stock holdings soared 33 percent to an average of $184.7 million. Median pay at these firms rose only 10 percent to an average of $31,972. (not adjusted for inflation)
  • FedEx CEO Frederick Smith has the largest stockpile in the Low-Wage 100. His personal holdings have grown 65 percent to more than $5 billion since January 2000. By contrast, FedEx median worker pay fell by 20 percent to $39,177 (including $9,267 in health benefits) between 2019 and 2022.

4. Over half of the Low-Wage 100 receive taxpayer-funded federal contracts

  • Of the 100 companies in our sample, 51 received federal contracts worth a combined $24.1 billion during fiscal years 2020-2023. These low-wage federal contractors spent nearly $160 billion on stock buybacks over the course of these years.
  • Amazon is the largest contractor in the Low-Wage 100, with at least $10.4 billion in federal deals in the past few years, mostly from a National Security Agency web services contract.

See full summary and report.