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Could William Barr sit at the table of today’s political elite if he wanted to? No doubt. After all, 12 years ago Barr was appointed attorney general by President George Bush, senior. So why has Verizon Communications Inc.’s general counsel elected to live the corporate life instead? The money certainly doesn’t hurt. Last year Barr, who declined to comment, was awarded nearly $6 million in stock option grants, the third-largest chunk in our survey. And unlike many of his peers, Barr, who shuttles between New York and Washington, D.C., offices, doesn’t just sit on those options. This past May, Barr planned to exercise 253,760 of his shares, which would reap an estimated $9.5 million. Despite Verizon’s largesse to Barr, which also included $724,000 in salary and $783,000 in bonus last year, the top legal dog at the New York�based telecommunications giant didn’t have the easiest year. Barr spent much of his time lobbying the Federal Communications Commission on its broad review of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Barr and others managed to convince FCC chair Michael Powell that the Baby Bells (Verizon included) shouldn’t have to open up their phone lines to competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) at steeply discounted rates. But when it came time for the FCC to vote on the issue in February, the CLECs showed their own political mettle by getting a crucial Republican commissioner to defect to their side; their cheap access remains. The year wasn’t a total loss for Barr, however. At the end of 2002, he negotiated a new two-year employment agreement. The GC’s deal includes a “short-term bonus opportunity . . . not to be less than 75 percent” of salary and a “long-term bonus opportunity . . . not to be less than 425 percent” of salary, according to the company’s proxy filing. There’s more: Barr, only 52, is now eligible to retire, which would mean the immediate vesting of stock options. But Barr’s too busy challenging FCC decisions in court to do that. Not to mention that there are more stock options to be earned.

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