Here’s the Secret of Being a Highly-Paid CEO: Have a Friend Set Your Salary

What’s the secret to being a highly-paid CEO of a Fortune 500 company? Sales growth? Earnings growth? Impressive return to shareholders? Visionary leadership?

According to a new study from Institutional Shareholder Services the real key is simpler: set your own pay. Or better yet, have a friend set it. According to ISS, in companies that have an insider as chairman of the board, CEOs earned a little over $15 million during the past three years. But in companies with an independent outsider as chairman, CEOs made only $11 million.

Did anything else matter? Revenue did: bigger companies pay their CEOs more. But that was it. Shareholder return was insignificant, as were several other variables. Bottom line: if you want a big payday, run a big company and make sure an insider is setting your pay.