At Publicis, a New Transparency Trick: CEO Pay Disclosures Are Published in French

Last Updated May 17, 2010 4:21 PM EDT

Publicis (PUB) CEO Maurice Levy's retirement package -- estimated at €20.4 million ($26.5 million) -- was controversial this year because of its size, because he was being rewarded based on bonuses he'd agreed to forgo, and because nobody could figure out how to calculate it properly. The reason its exact size remained a mystery to much of the world is because Publicis failed to have the financial disclosure document that described it translated into English, until now.

While Paris-based Publicis is within its rights to publish only in French, the company has consistently translated all its other documents into English and maintains an English investor relations site: It's an international company and its major ad agency brands (Leo Burnett, Starcom, Saatchi & Saatchi) are American or British. So this inconsistent transparency around the single most controversial issue in the company this year seems ... curieux.

The French version of Publicis' "document de reference" was disclosed in March. The English version only appeared a day or so ago, after I asked the company's investor relations people why it wasn't there. They just hadn't got around to translating it yet, was the reply.

The document -- the equivalent of an SEC annual 10-K filing -- also describes the compensation of Publicis' top executives in euros:

  • Name, title, pay in euros, % change
  • Maurice Lévy (CEO) 3,600,000 +6%
  • Jack Klues (Chairman, Publicis Groupe Media) 2,023,194 +6%
  • Kevin Roberts (Saatchi & Saatchi CEO) 3,580,259 +12%
  • David Kenny (managing partner of VivaKi) 2,304,013 +35%
  • Jean"Yves Naouri (EVP operations) 990,000 +35%
It then notes that Levy (pictured) gave up €2.7 million -- his entire bonus -- this year because of the layoffs and revenue decline suffered by the company. The bonuses that his colleagues gave up were decidedly more modest: Kenny and Klues waived $900,000 each, Naouri waved €350,000, and Roberts waived $300,000. Notice that the yanks waived their extras in the less-valuable dollars, and that Roberts waived so little that he still came away with a €69,000 pay increase.

Not all shared sacrifices are equally shared, it seems.


Image by Flickr user the World Economic Forum, CC.