Electronic Arts and Activision Blizzard CEOs Among Most Overpaid New Report Reveals

Amid massive layoffs, the CEOs of Electronic Arts and Activision Blizzard have been named among the 100 most overpaid CEOs by a non-profit shareholder advocacy group.

On Thursday, As You Sow released their annual "The 100 Most Overpaid CEOs" list for 2019. Included on the list are both Electronic Arts CEO Andrew Wilson, ranked at 98, and Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, at 45. Kotick receives compensation of $28.7 million a year, while Wilson is paid $35.7 million a year. Remarkably, the report cites among its "Key Findings" that companies with overpaid CEOs "markedly underperformed" the S&P 500, though neither video game developer was cited specifically for underperformance.

Last week, Activision Blizzard laid off an estimated 800 employees after a year of record earnings. In the same press release describing the company's realignment, a cash dividend was also announced, increasing payouts to shareholders by approximately 9 percent, according to video games business site Gamasutra.

The report additionally highlights the ratio between CEO compensation—as reported at annual shareholder meetings—and the pay of the median employee in the company. EA's Wilson makes 371 times the median Electronic Arts employee, while Kotick makes 306 times the median Activision Blizzard employee.

Electronic Arts is the publisher of video games Anthem, The Sims and the Battlefield series. Activision Blizzard video games include the Call of Duty series, World of Warcraft and Diablo III.

"This pay ratio is an appalling proof that the CEOs of the companies seldom care about anything else than theirs and the boards' pay. In the case of Bobby Kotick and Activision Blizzard, 800 talented individuals who are creating products that make those salaries and those profits possible, were unceremoniously fired—this is not a sign of a commendable and sustainable leadership," a spokesperson for Game Workers Unite, a grassroots organization dedicated to unionizing games industry workers, told Newsweek. "International industry unionization efforts, a push for change in policy and huge public pressure will soon end this rotten party of extracting quick profits for personal gain at the detriment of everyone else."

The As You Sow report documents how CEO pay has soared across industries in the past decade, with the average CEO salary growing by more than $2 million from 2013 to 2017, according to Institutional Shareholder Services, while the Economic Policy Institute has found a 17.6 percent increase in average CEO salary, among the 350 largest corporations in the United States, since 2016.

While multifactorial and part of a long-term trend of the highest-income brackets capturing the vast majority of the U.S. economy's growth, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed into law by President Donald Trump at the end of 2017 has accelerated executive pay disparities by eliminating loopholes and lowering corporate tax rates, savings which have overwhelmingly flowed into executive and shareholder compensation, rather than job creation.

Also appearing on the list are the CEOs of The Walt Disney Company, Mattel, Halliburton, Comcast, Netflix, AT&T, BlackRock, Ralph Lauren, Johson & Johnson, PepsiCo, Raytheon, The Goldman Sachs Group, Walmart, Pfizer, Exxon Mobil, JPMorgan Chase and, topping the list, Fleetcor Technologies CEO Ronald F. Clarke, who makes more than $52.6 million a year for a ratio of 1517 to one compared to his workers.

This article has been updated to include comment from Game Workers Unite.