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GC Comp 2016: The Stock Awards Edition

From Corporate Counsel |   By Jennifer Williams-Alvarez
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In many of our general counsel compensation categories, the winner just narrowly edges out the runner-up. In the case of total take-home cash, for example, The Walt Disney Co.'s Alan Braverman's haul was not even $200,000 more than the GC in the No. 2 spot. And with base salary, the No. 1 came out on top by only $500,000.

We see a different picture when it came to stock awards. Apple Inc.'s Bruce Sewell, with his $20 million in shares, beat out the others who joined him on our 2016 General Counsel Compensation list by more than $10 million.

Call him the $20 million man.

Now, for a deeper look: Stock awards for general counsel have bobbed up and down in the last few years. Following a drop in 2013, the 2014 results showed a whopping 49.4 percent increase in average stock awards. Even when ignoring the $40 million that outlier Google Inc.'s David Drummond received in shares, the increase was still nearly 22 percent on average. But in 2015 (the year covered in our survey), the numbers took a dive. Sewell's $20 million in stock awards (technically, $20,000,105), didn't change the fact that the overall average dropped by 19.1 percent.

Surprised? You shouldn't be. Given the sluggish economy, this doesn't go against expectations, says Bob Graff, a partner and recruiter in the in-house practice group at legal search consultants Major, Lindsey & Africa. "Growth was much more rapid after the recession, now it's leveled off. So the variable part of executive compensation is going to reflect that slower growth," he says. "Last year was a tough year for companies to perform, and the stock market didn't do too well, so it's not surprising that these numbers went down."

 

 

 

 

 

These numbers are in line with what's been going on in the market, says Bob Barker, managing partner at executive recruiting firm BarkerGilmore. "Overall the market was higher in 2014 than it was in 2015," he says. "The stock market was booming in 2014. But it was down in 2015, so that would tie into the awards that would be given."

Down-market or no, there's no denying that Sewell's stock award is more than a little impressive. Let's see how the others in this category fared. Below Sewell was Amgen Inc.'s GC, Jonathan Graham, who received $8,599,985 in stock awards. At No. 3 was John Finley of New York-based The Blackstone Group with $8,188,928. In fourth place, we had Brad Smith from Microsoft Corp., who received $4,833,835. And wrapping up the top five was General Motors Co.'s Craig Glidden, with $4,475,042. For the top 10, see the accompanying chart.