Exorbitant CEO pay is driving the disparity between the wealthy and the average citizen higher, Yale Law School professor Jonathan Macey told CNBC on Wednesday.
"A much higher percentage of our top executives are overpaid than are underpaid," he said. "This pay imbalance between ordinary workers and top executives is actually contributing statistically more to income inequality and wealth inequality than previously had been thought."
On Wednesday, Coca-Cola shareholders approved the company's controversial executive-compensation plan. Critics call the deal a sweet one for the company's execs.
Value investor and fund manager David Winters sent letters to shareholders and its board last month, saying the plan will erode the per-share value of Coca-Cola stock and reward executives with shares that have an approximate price of $13 billion.
"In effect, the board is asking shareholders for approval to transfer approximately $13 billion from all of our pockets to the company's management over the next four years," he wrote.
Last year, the beverage giant's CEO, Muhtar Kent, was paid $20.4 million, down 33 percent from his total compensation in 2012.
"Wealth distribution is a big problem," Macey said. "We need to worry about this because it affects the political system, it affects the structure of society, it affects people's incentives to go out and get an education. This is a problem we need to address and executive compensation is a big part of it."
According to Executive Paywatch, the CEO to worker pay ratio was 331:1 in 2013, with CEOs of the S&P 500 Index companies earning, on average, $11.7 million in total compensation.
However, Bob Damon of the executive search firm Korn Ferry International said there are two important market factors that contribute to rising CEO pay.
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The first is supply and demand—with the demand of "A level" CEOs greatly exceeding the supply. The second is the impact these "A level" CEOs can have on a company and down the line on the economy.
"What does a successful company do? One, they create jobs," he said. "With an unemployment rate of 6.7 percent in this country, creating jobs should be at the top of everybody's food chain"
Gone are the days of cost-cutting for companies to grow, he added. "CEOs that are going to be successful in the future are going to be growing their companies."
- By CNBC's Michelle Fox
- CNBC's Sara Eisen contributed to this report