As investor interest in the pharmaceutical industry rose during the pandemic, several general counsel in this industry saw pay increases last year, according to securities filings. And observers expect further compensation growth for pharmaceutical corporate counsel going forward.
ALM Intelligence examined the compensation, including salaries and bonuses, of general counsel at Fortune 1000 companies, looking at 2020 disclosure filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Among those filings, the compensation arrangements of nine general counsel from the pharmaceutical industry were disclosed.
The pandemic put a spotlight on the pharmaceutical industry, which spurred investment. That greater attention and investment to the industry is forcing companies to remain competitive with how they pay their legal talent and attract new talent, Amy Katz, a recruiter at Major, Lindsey & Africa in Boston, said.
Laura Schumacher, the chief legal officer of AbbVie, saw her salary rise from $1.17 million in 2019 to $1.21 million in 2020. Her 2020 compensation also includes nonequity incentive compensation—or a bonus—of $2.55 million. In all, she brought in about $3,761,808 last year, about $200,000 more than the previous year.
Other general counsel in the industry saw their total cash compensation increase last year, including in-house legal leaders of Gilead Sciences, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Catalant.
Gilead Science general counsel Brett Pletcher’s 2019 total cash compensation (including salary and bonus) rose by 26.5% to $2,690,838 in 2020. Catalant general counsel Steve Fasman saw his total cash compensation go up by 5.2% to $1,039,426 in 2020. The cash compensation of Sandra Leung, chief legal officer of Bristol-Myers Squibb, increased by 4.2% to $2.7 million in 2020.
Newcomers to the list of highest-paid general counsel in the pharmaceutical industry include Seagen’s Jean Liu who brought in $946,325 in total cash and Elanco Animal Health’s now-former general counsel Michael-Bryant Hicks, who made $805,748 in 2020.
Among the nine pharmaceutical general counsel, only two saw decreases in their overall compensation. Pay for Susan Alexander, the general counsel of Biogen, decreased from $1.8 million in 2019 to $1.4 million in 2020. Jennifer Zachery, the general counsel of Merck, saw a decrease in total cash from $2.8 million to $1.6 million in 2020.
Meanwhile, the general counsel of Eli Lilly, Anat Hakim, who started in 2020, took home $1.5 million in cash. Her predecessor, Michael Harrington, who retired in 2020 after eight years with the company, brought in $1.8 million in cash.
‘A Big Swing’
Bonuses in the form of nonequity incentive compensation increased for many of the pharmaceutical general counsel, even if they were relatively small increases, according to the data.
“The bonuses can be a big swing,” Mike Evers, a recruiter who founded Evers Legal Search in Chicago, said. He noted that for these companies, bonuses can range from 50% to 70% of a general counsel’s salary.
Schumacher of AbbVie saw her nonequity incentive compensation rise by $150,000 in 2020. The nonequity incentive compensation of Bristol-Myer Squibb’s Leung increased by $55,000. Gilead’s Pletcher saw an increase of approximately $469,000 from 2019 to 2020, while Catalant’s Fasman increased his bonus by about $30,000 in 2020.
Evers noted that he would expect to see increased bonuses in the pharmaceutical industry in 2021 as more investment pours into the sector.
Specifically, bonuses and equity grants will likely raise going forward to retain and attract top talent, Major, Lindsey & Africa’s Katz said.
“Pay at the highest level is going to continue to skyrocket,” Evers added.