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If you looked at just the salary and bonus figures in our annual survey of general counsel compensation, you’d see steady, but not startling, progress. Chief legal officers are well remunerated, it’s true. Salaries and bonuses for the 100 best-paid GCs averaged $1,116,398 in 2003, up a respectable 6 percent. Cash compensation, though, was a tiny part of the story. The big news for 2003 was the last hurrah in stock options. Chief legal officers doubled their cash-outs between 2002 and 2003, to $95 million. One GC, Boston Scientific Corporation’s Paul Sandman, reaped nearly $20 million. But 2003 may have been the beginning of the end. Fortune 500 businesses are cutting back on stock option grants to top executives, formerly one of the biggest perks of in-house life. Options have become a victim of new accounting regulations and restive shareholders � part of the continued fallout from 2002′s corporate scandals. Reflecting the new reformist mood, companies are doling out restricted stock grants instead. Typically they’re smaller than options awards and have less of a financial upside. Sandman’s whopping payday, it seems, might be the last of its kind.

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