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Sam Palmisano, Chairman and former CEO aof IBM - and the second-highest paid executive in the U.S. - shakes hands with President Barack Obama at the White House in January. CEO pay rose 15 percent this year, according to a new report. - 

Jeremy Hobson: Now we come to CEO pay. The research firm GMI Ratings found that CEO pay is on the rise again. The compensation for running a company rose an average 15 percent last year - and 28 percent the year before that. The average CEO pay in the U.S. was nearly $6 million for a year's work. Our New York bureau chief Heidi Moore reports.

Heidi Moore: The highest-paid CEO in the country is Michael Johnson at Herbalife, which makes nutritional products. He made $89.4 million in 2011. IBM's Sam Palmisano and Edward Breen of Tyco made about $63 million each last year.

Is this some kind of CEO-payday arms race? Yes, as it turns out.

Charles Elson: Everyone is judged by how much everyone else is making.

Moore: That's Charles Elson, the director of the Center for Corporate Governance at the University of Delaware.

Even if peer pressure is a factor, what's wrong with getting insanely rich while running a company? Elson explained how these compensation packages are decided.

Elson: The process itself is unrelated to performance.

Moore: Oh. So I asked Lucy Marcus, who advises the boards of directors of companies, whether one person's labor can ever really be worth $89 million.

Marcus: Well, intuitively, I suppose one thinks not.

Moore: Both Marcus and Elson agree that part of the problem is that boards of directors are disconnected from reality.

In New York, I'm Heidi Moore for Marketplace.

CORRECTION: The photo caption has been corrected to reflect the correct title of IBM's Chairman Sam Palmisano.

Follow Heidi N. Moore at @moorehn