Spokane Journal of Business

General counsel pay falls

Stock awards declined by double digits in latest compensation survey

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After a strong rebound in 2010, general counsel compensation suffered across-the-board declines last year, says a survey report published last month.

The findings were published in the August issue of ALM's Corporate Counsel, which claims to be the nation's leading publication for general counsel and in-house attorneys.

The sharpest setbacks came in the equity awards categories. Average stock awards to general counsel fell 10.9 percent to $1,426,325 in 2011, while the average value of options, awarded to only 70 lawyers, plummeted 18.7 percent from 2010 to $732,453.

Salaries meanwhile ticked down just 1.8 percent to $611,411. The remaining category of traditional bonuses plus nonequity incentive pay dropped 7.7 percent to an average $1,125,458, quite a reversal from 2010's 28.7 percent jump. All data was gleaned from the proxy statements of the Fortune 500.

"The ups and downs of the various forms of general counsel compensation give us a good idea of executive compensation trends in general," says Corporate Counsel Editor in Chief Anthony Paonita.

The report cites the economy, poor share performance, increased shareholder scrutiny, and possibly the increase in lawyer supply from law firm woes as main drivers of last year's decline.

Among survey findings were the following:

•The highest general counsel salary was Philip Morris International Inc.'s David Bernick's $1.6 million.

•The leader in bonus and nonequity incentive compensation was CBS Corp.'s Louis Briskman with $5.2 million.

•In the equity awards category, Google Inc.'s David Drummond stood out with $8.4 million stock grants and an option award valued at $6.2 million.

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