Eric Whitaker, Sandisk general counsel
Eric Whitaker, Sandisk general counsel ()

SAN FRANCISCO — Startups are being snapped up for billions. Venture investment has reached a level some call silly. Demand from tech workers has sent San Francisco rents soaring.

Silicon Valley and Big Money practically seem synonymous.

But when it comes to the compensation of GCs at the Valley’s largest public companies, just how many zeroes those paychecks contain is mostly a matter of speculation.

The GC Compensation 2014 Survey, compiled and released Wednesday by sister publication Corporate Counsel, ranks GC compensation based on data from public companies’ annual proxy statements. Only two Silicon Valley tech lawyers appear on this year’s list, Google Inc.’s David Drummond at No. 9 and SanDisk Corp.’s Eric Whitaker at 99.

According to the survey, in 2013 Drummond took home roughly $8.8 million, including more than $5 million gained from the sale of stock options. Whitaker, who joined SanDisk last year, was paid a little more than $1 million in cash compensation.

The data publicly available is hardly a full picture though, since companies only have to report the compensation of their five highest-paid executives in these statements. GCs can rake it in and still remain under the radar because of higher comparative pay inside their company.

For instance, Apple Inc.’s GC D. Bruce Sewell, who received total cash pay of $2.4 million and stock options worth a staggering $67 million in 2012, was not represented in the most recent report. Last year, when he was the fourth-highest-paid individual at Apple, he ranked No. 18. This year, another executive nudged his way into the top five.

Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer, fell three spots from last year, though he remains the highest-paid tech lawyer in the survey with a nonequity pay package totaling $3.65 million.

Whitaker, who replaced James Brelsford as SanDisk’s GC, apparently negotiated a sweeter package. Brelsford, now a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, received total compensation of around $400,000 in 2012 and roughly $736,000 in 2011. Whitaker received a base salary of $420,096 in 2013 and a $640,000 bonus.

San Diego-based Qualcomm Corp. GC Donald Rosenberg placed at No. 50, a drop of seven spaces from last year, with a base salary of $675,002 and an $860,000 bonus.

Though not on the Top 100 list, compensation was publicly reported for senior lawyers at Twitter Inc., FireEye Inc. and Inc.

Twitter’s Vijaya Gadde took home cash pay totaling $227,083, including a $7,500 bonus, and FireEye’s Alexa King received compensation of $356,227, according to the companies’ annual proxy filings. At, chief legal officer Burke Norton received a cash pay package of $1.13 million.

GCs working in the “computers, electronics and technology” sector were among the highest paid, following those working for banking and financial companies, according to the report. At close to $6 million, not including stock options, General Electric Co.’s pay package for Brackett Denniston III topped the list for the second year in a row.

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