There needs to be more transparency in the way companies value the compensation of their chief executives, Christie Hefner, director at the Center for American Progress, told CNBC on Wednesday.
Johnson received no stock awards like he did in his first year with the struggling retailer to compensate him for what he was giving up by leaving Apple. His total compensation totaled $53.3 million in 2011.
(Read More: Cramer: Apple Is 'Becoming the JC Penney of Tech')
"I kind of feel we don't yet have the tools to actually monitor, and therefore comment upon as investors, what these compensation packages wind up being worth," Hefner said.
She added that "we are still a captive of things like Black-Scholes [formula]," which is a leading way to calculate the total value of stock options.
"[It's] a snapshot in terms of the value, which may have nothing to do with the cash value [one] ultimately gets out of it," she said. "We need to keep working on other ways to make it a little more of a moving picture maybe than of just a snapshot."
According to a J.C. Penney filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, "None of [its] named executive officers received an annual cash incentive award for fiscal 2012 due to the company's financial results versus its goals."
The first year of Johnson's radical turnaround plans have been a disaster: His decision to eliminate most discounting contributed to a 25 percent drop in sales last year and a 44 percent drop in the company's stock price.
Hefner noted, "They have to reset the near-term metrics. ... How patient will investors be? I think that's a function of whether they're able to achieve what they communicate their goals are along the way."