Disproportionate salaries for charity executives risk bringing the wider charitable world into disrepute, the Charity Commission's chairman has warned.
William Shawcross said it is a matter for trustees to decide if high wages are appropriate and fair to both donors and taxpayers who fund charities.
Mr Shawcross made the comments as the Daily Telegraph reported that the number of executives at charities connected to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) receiving salaries of £100,000 or more has increased from 19 to 30 over the past three years.
But Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of charity leaders organisation Acevo, said the intervention by Mr Shawcross was "deeply unhelpful".
The average salary for a charity chief executive was £58,000, he said and added: "The big national and international charities are very demanding jobs and we need to attract the best talent to those jobs and that's what we do."
Sir Stephen denied that the high salaries could put off donors.
He said: "This simply isn't an issue for donors. Donors are more concerned about the outcomes, the performance and the efficiency of these organisations.
"To keep talent, really strong people, at the top of these organisations they need to be paid properly. These are still not excessive salaries when you compare them to the public and private sectors."
The Telegraph research focused on 14 foreign aid charities which make-up the DEC, which raises money quickly at times of tragedy in the world.
Mr Shawcross told the Telegraph: "It is not for the commission to tell charities how much they should pay their executives. That is a matter for their trustees.
"However, in these difficult times, when many charities are experiencing shortfalls, trustees should consider whether very high salaries are really appropriate, and fair to both the donors and the taxpayers who fund charities.
"Disproportionate salaries risk bringing organisations and the wider charitable world into disrepute."
DEC says it has run 62 appeals and raised more than £1.1 billion since launching in 1963.
The charities involved with DEC include Action Aid, Age International, British Red Cross, CAFOD, Care International, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide, Islamic Relief, Merlin, Oxfam, Plan UK, Save the Children, Tearfund and World Vision.Suggest a correction