CEO Pay Is Not a Systemic Problem in America | Opinion

The following is a lightly edited transcript of remarks made by Alice Stewart during a Newsweek podcast debate on CEO pay. You can listen to the podcast here:

The first question would obviously be, what is fair? What is fair for the CEO, with their experience and background, and what is fair for the worker? And depending on who you ask, you're certainly going to get two different answers. Look, we all know the numbers that traditionally the CEOs make somewhere between 300 times as much as the average worker. And that goes from pay, to compensation, to stocks, to all kinds of perks and benefits they have in their salary. But the question is, what's fair for them? And what kind of experience and background did they have to get where they are?

 Biden leaves Stock Trading Decision to Congress
The White House said Tuesday that President Joe Biden will leave the stock trading debate to lawmakers as some consider a ban on the practice. In this photo, a Wall Street sign is seen at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on January 4, 2022 in New York City. Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

There will be a lot of people who question whether the multimillion-dollar payouts that they have and stock options they have are fair. But you have some that will say, "look, you have to pay that kind of money to get the best"—you have to pay that kind of money to get people with the experience necessary to oversee these large corporations.

I love an article I recently read from Jeff Immelt, who was a former CEO of General Electric, and his take on it. He got out with millions and millions of dollars, but he himself has acknowledged that the good executives are probably worth more and others are probably worth less. So it's difficult to have this conversation without realizing there are some really good CEOs out there who probably earn every penny. And there are some really bad ones out there who probably don't deserve the money that they make.

Alice Stewart is resident fellow at Harvard University's Kennedy Institute of Politics.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.