With the U.S. economy reeling from the sub-prime mortgage mess and the credit crunch, outrage among investors and lawmakers over outsized executive compensation is reaching a fever pitch this proxy season.

Scores of companies are bracing for shareholder proposals in coming months to adopt “say on pay” advisory votes over CEO compensation at the annual meeting. The first of those proposals went to a vote at Apple on March 4. Preliminary results show the measure won a majority of shareholder votes, but the resolution was non-binding and Apple’s board has not said what it will do next.

Carol Bowie, head of ...