Head honchos at retail REITs have largely sat back and delivered huge returns to their shareholders without richly compensating themselves according to a study by Wachovia Capital Markets LLC.

Six of the best 10 companies in Wachovia's study were retail firms when looking at relative compensation change and shareholder return.

CBL & Associates Properties led the pack delivering 190 percent cumulative return to investors from 1999 to 2004 while relative compensation fell 67 percent during the same period. Other retail firms included General Growth Properties (136 percent return vs. -39 percent compensation), Developers Diversified Realty (134 percent, -29 percent), Simon Property Group (78 percent, -69 percent), Kimco Realty Corp. (51 percent, -64 percent) and Federal Realty Trust (75 percent, -29 percent.)

On the flip side, only two companies with retail holdings show up in the bottom 10. Regency Centers delivered 120 percent returns to investors, but executive compensation rose 376 percent during the same period. And Vornado Realty Trust saw cumulative return rise 58 percent, but compensation rose 193 percent.

Overall, retail companies have been stingy about compensating their executive teams when compared with other REITs. No retail real estate companies show up in the top 10 in terms of highest average compensation.