GC Compensation

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The duties have multiplied—and titles, too—but compensation for GCs is rising again

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Photo of MARSHALL T. SCOTT
MARSHALL T. SCOTT: Senior executive pay consultant with Towers Watson says GCs are seeing "a nice bump in compensation."

Overall, companies have been more profitable, says PWC's Slutsky. "They are getting more operationally efficient and also concentrating more on things such as customer service, so from the top and bottom lines they are seeing more profits. And the pay increases and bonuses are aligned with those performances. We are seeing this over the past year or maybe two."

One piece of executive compensation that does not seem to be bouncing back is perks.

Slutsky says that the reduction in perks is driven, in part, by the SEC's requirement of "enhanced disclosure" in 2007, which shed light on them and caused the board of directions and compensation committee to align them more closely to the business needs of the organization. As a result, many were reduced or eliminated.

Increasingly, companies are eliminating such previous de rigueur perks as country club memberships and first-class travel, Koblentz says. Some are ending health care benefits for family members as well.

Scott says one of the reasons is that these sort of perks "tend to be more irritants to the board and compensation committees. They're viewed as being small in value but conferring a sort of status and class distinction rather than due to merit or performance."

Perks that won't go away are where there is a seen value to the company. "Helping to pay for financial planning is one," he says. "These people have a complex pay structure and someone has to help them out. HR doesn't want to."

Executive physicals and security are two other perks that are pretty solid. "You can make a strong case for wanting to keep these executives healthy and safe. There have been cases of executives or their families who have been kidnapped, and no one wants that. There are real reasons and benefits for the company for those benefits; it's not a class issue," Scott says.

As for this year, expect most compensation boosts for general counsel to continue to be tied to the company's performance.

"There's been a lot of changes in compensation over the past couple of year," says Scott. "I think we've reached a point of relative stability—certainly more than in the recent past. I think there's a calm in the boardrooms. Everything is relatively stable and I expect that to continue."

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