The top 20 hedge fund executives’ earnings averaged  $655.5 million in 2006, according to a report by the Institute for Policy Studies and United for a Fair Economy.

By comparison, the average U.S. worker earned $29,500 last year, which means that at an average hourly salary of $210,700 for the top hedge fund honchos, they earned more in 10 minutes than most Americans do in a year.

And these lucrative earnings are expected to inflate pay packages at publicly traded companies, said Sarah Anderson, co-author of the report and director of the global economy program at the Institute for Policy Studies.

“There are people out there with a straight face claiming that public company executives are underpaid,” Anderson said. “The CEO-worker pay gap is finally getting some high-profile attention from Presidential candidates, but lawmakers still aren’t doing nearly enough to tackle the gap.”
Currently, CEOs at publicly traded companies earn an average of $10.8 million a year. Returning to the comparison to the average U.S. worker, they earn more in a day than the average American.

Further, The 20 highest-paid figures in the private equity and hedge fund industry collected 3,315 times more in average annual compensation in 2006 than the top 20 officials of the federal government’s executive branch, including the President of the United States.

“Today’s soaring pay gap between business executives and elected leaders in government essentially makes corruption inevitable,” noted Sam Pizzigati, an Institute for Policy Studies associate fellow. “With such huge windfalls at stake, business leaders have a powerful incentive to manipulate the political decisions that affect corporate earnings.”

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