Big Bonuses Are Back

Executive compensation is on this rise again as corporate profits rise, a newspaper reported Monday.

The Financial Times says pay for CEOs is on the rebound after two years in which corporate scandals led many companies to limit raises for top officers. Raises in 2003 are on track to equal those seen during the 1990s boom.

Executives are getting fewer stock options, but are earning larger salaries and getting more company shares, the newspaper reports, citing surveys.

One study of 50 large companies found total compensation up 17 percent over 2002 levels, but stock options reduced by a third. A separate report found a 7.5 percent increase in salary and bonuses by a 16 percent decrease in long-term incentives.

"I have been a little astonished at how little change there has been. There seems no moderation whatsoever," Paul Hodgson, an export on corporate pay at The Corporate Library, told the Financial Times.

Among the largest packages in 2003 were was that of Citigroup boss Sanford Weill, who took home $44.6 million — still well short of the $127.8 million Weill earned in 2000. Merrill Lynch's CEO nearly doubled his pay from 2002 to 2003, earning $28.1 million last year.

The fall in stock market in 2000 and 2001 eroded CEO pay. In 2002, scandals involving Enron, WorldCom and other corporations triggered stockholder furor that also hit bosses in the wallet.

Business Work reports that in 2002, CEO pay slipped back to where it was in 1996 — a 33 percent decrease. But the average CEO salary at top 200 firms of $10.83 million was still 255 times the median U.S. household income.


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