Monday, September 21, 2009

CEO pay increased last year

Posted By on Mon, Sep 21, 2009 at 3:43 PM

CEOs in the Carolinas enjoyed a pay increase last year while many of their fellow citizens suffered.

Indications point to lower bonuses and salaries in the near future, but when you're pulling down a lottery-winning-like salary each year, it's difficult to worry about CEOs bringing in a million or so less.

Which brings me to this reality show suggestion: Take CEOs out of their towers and put them to work in a minimum-wage job. Can they survive in, what is for many, reality?

My guess is the season will be full of nervous breakdowns.

The median compensation for top N.C. and S.C. executives increased by 3 percent last year, to $2.9 million, an annual Observer analysis of federal securities filings show. Their bonuses also grew and they still enjoyed a slew of perks.

The Observer calculates annual CEO pay by adding base salary, bonuses, the value of stock awards, profits from exercising stock options and "other" pay, such as personal use of corporate planes. Annual proxy reports that detail compensation typically come out in the spring and reflect data from the year before, so 2009 numbers show 2008 results.

In 2007, nine Carolina CEOs took in more than $10 million.

For now, experts predict a decline in overall compensation this year as firms look to manage and set performance measures in a volatile environment. Board compensation committees often tie pay to hitting targets in such areas as revenue, profits and total shareholder return.

"Generally what you'll see in salaries for executives from 2008 to 2009 will be flat," said Tom Kelly, compensation practice leader for the Carolinas with compensation consulting firm Watson Wyatt in Charlotte. "And bonuses will definitely be down," as they are closely tied to operating performance.

In June, President Obama appointed an official to review compensation plans for top executives at banks that received government aid.

In July, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo generated outrage and headlines after highlighting nearly $33 billion in bonuses paid out last year to executives and other employees by Bank of America and other banks that received government bailout money following their own huge losses.

And a new national poll for Reuters found that 60 percent of Americans remain concerned or angry about excessive executive pay on Wall Street.

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