The I.S.S. analysis covers top executives whose pay details are included in companies’ proxies, documents that publicly traded businesses file with the Securities and Exchange Commission annually. Proxies provide investors with important financial information and instructions on how to vote on corporate proposals and board appointments.
Not all executives have gains on their 2020 grants, because many companies have struggled in the pandemic. In its survey, which covers 2020 grants made by companies in the Russell 3000 stock index, I.S.S. found that 1,675 “named executive officers,” or the executives who appear in proxies, had gains while 1,388 had losses, as of Wednesday’s closing stock prices. The average appreciation was nearly $1.5 million and the average loss $827,000.
The chief executives of technology companies, many of which have thrived during the pandemic, have done particularly well. Their average gain on 2020 grants was $3.2 million, while the average loss was $543,000.
The largest combined gain in the survey was Mr. Lynch’s $64 million on his 2020 options grants from Peloton. Its stock is up 500 percent from its 2020 low.
If a company’s stock soars like Peloton’s, employee stock awards will most likely produce immediate paper fortunes. But Mr. Miller said companies could structure stock awards to reduce that likelihood if they wanted to. For example, companies can space out grants so they are not all granted when the stock is at a low or a high point.
Peloton declined to comment.
Ray Jordan, a spokesman for Moderna, said Mr. Bancel’s options vested over several years, meaning that “paper gains in a few months do not necessarily translate to long-term gains if the stock performance is not maintained.”
Some executives at companies that have been hit hard by the pandemic have still done well. In March, William J. Hornbuckle, chief executive of MGM Resorts International, gave up the remainder of his 2020 salary in exchange for restricted stock units worth $700,000, the amount of his forgone salary. After MGM stock recovered somewhat from the lows it plumbed in March, that grant is worth $1.3 million on paper — and all his 2020 awards have appreciated by a combined $4 million.