05/21/2012 11:13 am ET

CEO Salary Report: 2011 Executive Compensation More Correlated With Company Performance Than 2010

It pays to be CEO at some companies, no matter how much money you lose.

Gregg Engles, founder and CEO of Dean Foods, earned $8.5 million in 2011, a 52 percent increase from the year before in spite of the fact that his company lost $1.6 billion, the Wall Street Journal reports.

But CEO paydays last year generally were more aligned with company performance than in 2010, according to a separate WSJ report. CEOs were paid 0.6 percent more on average for every extra 1 percent in shareholder return in 2011, according to the WSJ analysis. In contrast, in 2010, CEOs were paid slightly more for decreases in shareholder return.

That said, CEOs still get paid an astronomical amount. CEO pay grew 127 times faster than worker pay between 1978 and 2011, according to a recent study by the Economic Policy Institute. American CEO pay rose 15 percent in 2011, after rising 28 percent in 2010, according to a report by GMI ratings cited by the Guardian.

CEOs now are getting paid better than they were before the recession, according to an Associated Press analysis of data from Equilar, an executive compensation research firm.

A number of CEOs received huge paydays in 2010 even as their companies’ stock prices tanked. For example, John Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems, was paid $18.87 million in 2010, even as his company’s stock price plunged 31.4 percent, according to 24/7 Wall St.

More than 21 CEOs even have received severance packages worth more than $100 million since 2000, according to GMI Ratings.

CEO pay recently has come under more scrutiny. Citigroup’s shareholders voted against Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit’s $14.9 million pay package, though it was only an advisory vote. Citigroup shareholders also have sued Pandit and Citigroup’s board of directors for outsized executive pay packages. But the shareholder revolt against bank CEO pay seems to be fizzling out, as shareholders continue to rake in big returns.

So it is perhaps no surprise that 68 percent of CEOs had personal access to a corporate jet last year, according to an analysis by the Hay Group cited by the WSJ.