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CEO and CFO Pay Down in ‘07, but Top Performers Still Fared Well

April 11, 2008
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If ever there was a question about boards holding executives accountable for performance, this year’s early proxy filings should put those doubts to rest.

Most chief executives and chief financial officers saw their cash compensation decrease last year, but executives at top performing companies raked in substantially higher cash bonuses, according to an analysis of 2008 proxies by compensation consultant Steven Hall & Partners.

Among the 522 companies that have filed proxies this year, the median cash compensation paid to CEOs was $1.23 million, a 4.3 percent decrease from the previous year. CFOs, meanwhile, took home total cash compensation of $550,000, 1.4 percent less than they were paid last year.

But a closer look at the top-performing companies shows that their CEOs and CFOs were appropriately rewarded for a job well done, said Steven Hall, managing director and founder of the consulting firm.

Companies whose performance put them in the top quartile realized growth of 77 percent in their median net income in 2007, as measured by Steven Hall. CEOs at these companies were paid a median cash bonus of $663,286 last year, a 25 percent spike from the year before, which pushed their total compensation up 15 percent, to $1.43 million. CFOs at top quartile companies saw their cash bonuses jump by 23 percent, to $293,645, driving their total compensation up 10 percent, to $696,869.

“Boards are holding executives’ feet to the fire,” Hall said. “They are making them accountable for their results and for delivering true performance, that much is clear.”

Hall’s analysis also showed that companies that fell into the bottom quartile for performance—where net income decreased by at least 39 percent last year—paid their CEOs median cash bonuses that were 72 percent lower, while CFOs were given cash bonuses that were 52 percent less.

At companies in the bottom quartile, many executives didn’t get a bonus at all. Almost a third of the companies that Hall analyzed didn’t reward their CEOs with any cash incentive last year.

Filed by Mark Bruno of Financial Week, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail editors@workforce.com.

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