The Growing Disparity in Japanese CEO Pay

Last Updated Nov 28, 2008 10:11 AM EST

Japanese companies, especially automakers, have long been praised for putting in good performances while keeping CEO pay low. But as Japanese firms swoop in to buy troubled American company assets, the inquities are becoming glaring.

Consider that Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group paid all of $8.1 million for 14 top executives last year. The bank which is Japan's largest by market capitalization, bought a 21 percent stake in Morgan Stanley in September.

Perhaps it's no big surprise, but John Mack, CEO of Morgan, took home $41.4 million in 2006. True, his pay was cut to $1.6 million last year, but the payouts make the point.

CEO compensation critics, including President-elect Barack Obama, have regularly pointed to the disparity between Japanese C-Suite pay and that of American corporate officials.

Part of it is cultural. Japanese view out-sized pay packages as socially offensive and merit seniority more than performance.

But Lord help us if the financial crisis shifts make them more like us.