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Latest Survey of GC Compensation Shows Earnings Going Up
General counsel in the Fortune 1000 are earning more than they were last year, while those working in the technology, media, and telecom industries out-earned their peers in other sectors, according to a new report.
Equilar's 2012 "In-Depth Top General Counsel Compensation Report" examined pay packages among 404 general counsel in the Fortune 1000, and found that the median total compensation for GCs was $1,409,982. That's up 2.4 percent from 2011, among the 136 respondents who participated in last year's survey, too.
The median total compensation figure accounts for base salary; annual cash bonus; time-based option awards; time-based stock or unit awards; and performance-based awards. This year's pay-out for general counsel breaks down as follows:
Beyond the median totals, paycheck size varied by industry, reporting hierarchies, and tenure at a company:
Industry: Top legal officers took home the highest pay at technology, media, and telecom companies, earning $1,679,000 in median comp, according to the report. By contrast, general counsel at the retail and consumer companies took home $1,146,000the lowest median earnings among the industry groups surveyed.
Hierarchy: Reporting to the CEO made a huge difference in pay. GCs listed as a Named Executive Officer in their company's latest proxy statement and who also report to the CEO received $1,527,666 in median comp. GCs who are not listed as NEOs but do report to the CEO received $1,613,087.
However, general counsel who don't report to the chief executive earned $760,348 in median paya 67.1 percent drop below their NEO peers.
Tenure: Longevity led to higher pay, too. "There is a direct relationship between how long a General Counsel has been with his or her company and his or her total compensation," according to Equilar's results. "General Counsels with fewer than three years' tenure had a median pay of $1,205,120, while their peers with more than 10 years of tenure had a median pay of $1,437,230."
Equilar also examined proxy filings for Fortune 500 firms, turning up pay differentials according to gender, in addition to whether or not a GC held a dual role:
Gender: Women GCs in the Fortune 500 came out slightly ahead of their male counterparts: men earned a median total compensation of $1,111,578, while women took in $1,285,063 by the same measure.
Dual Roles: General counsel who doubled as corporate secretary paid a price for it, receiving "a lower median total compensation of $1,027,391 as opposed to the $1,297,150 received by General Counsels who did not serve a dual role," Equilar found.
And let's not forget the other benefits of being a GC: About 69 percent of survey respondents were eligible for desirable perks at their companies.
Among the specific types of perquisites that the survey tracked, 35.6 percent of respondents said they had access to premium insurance; 23.5 percent were eligible for company cars or drivers; 11.6 percent could use company aircraft; 9.1 percent could benefit from tax gross-ups; 8.4 percent could make use of club memberships; and 4 percent said they had access to home or personal security.
Here, a GC's reporting chain made almost no difference in their access to perks. "Overall, General Counsels who do not report to the CEO are just as likely to receive perquisites as those who don't report to the CEO," according to the report.
When it came to incentive vehicles, the most common award for GCs was time-based stock: "63.5 percent of General Counsels in the Survey received a time-based stock or unit award, while 61.0 percent received a time-based option award," the report found. "Performance-based stock or unit awards ranked third in prevalence, with 62.7 percent of General Counsels receiving them."
In general, GCs should be pleased with the numbers in Equilar's survey, especially when compared with some less-than-positive general counsel compensation surveys from the last yearincluding Corporate Counsel's own GC Compensation Survey, which is available here.