Corporate executives are paid at extremely high levels compared to lower-level employees, especially in the United States, and their level of compensation usually does not change based on company performance with respect to competitors, but rather with changes in their company's stock price. It is well known that executive compensation among U.S. corporations is comprised mostly of stock options, sometimes up to 90% of overall compensation (Edgar 2002). These stock options allow executives, namely chief executive officers (CEOs), to cash in big bucks during good times and risk zero losses during bad times.
Blumer '03, Kory J., "The Effects of CEO Compensation Structure on Reported Earnings and Shareholder Wealth" (2003). Honors Projects. Paper 12.