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His boss, Richard Fairbank, is the fourth-highest-paid executive in the country, after cashing in a whopping $142 million in Capital One Financial Corp. options last year. But John Finneran Jr., Capital One’s general counsel, isn’t complaining. Last year Finneran sold some $15.5 million worth of stock, leaving a pile worth $4.4 million in the company bank. (Almost half of those options are exercisable; the rest are not.) That Finneran and other Capital One executives unloaded 2.45 million shares in early 2001 did not go unnoticed by analysts, who questioned the timing. But unlike the massive insider dumping that took place at Enron Corp., Tyco International Ltd., and other troubled businesses last year, the sell-off at Capital One was no ominous harbinger. Net income at the Falls Church, Va.-based provider of consumer loans, deposits, and credit cards shot up 37 percent in 2001. While rivals American Express Co. and Providian Financial Corp. struggled with mounting consumer debt, Capital One has been praised for clamping down on risky customers, thereby avoiding costly charge-offs. Finneran joined Capital One as general counsel in September 1994, several weeks before the business was spun off from Signet Banking Corp. Before that, Finneran, 52, spent three years as an acting deputy general counsel of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and 10 years in the Washington, D.C., office of New York’s Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton. At Capital One, Finneran oversees a 50-lawyer department. On top of his stock payout, he pocketed a $940,000 bonus in 2001, after forgoing a bonus the prior three years. He declined to discuss his remuneration, but a company spokeswoman says that there was nothing unusual about last year’s stock sale by senior executives. In Finneran’s case, it was a “personal decision that he made.”

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