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Earlier this week, Corporate Counsel released the results of its 2014 GC Compensation Survey, which lists the top 100 (with caveats) best-paid general counsel. And while we all know that GCs make a lot of money, when you actually see the figures, I assure you, your jaw will drop.
So here goes, let's all
turn green with envy picture what we would do with $5 million as we take a look at the survey results.
To make the list of GC salaries, ALM Legal Intelligence went through the proxies of Fortune 500 companies, and ranked those with the highest "cash compensation, which includes salary, bonus and nonequity incentive compensation." The survey purports to list the top 100 earners, but there are a few caveats to note at the outset. First, the SEC only requires reporting of public companies' CEOs and four highest-paid executives, which often, but not always includes GC. Also, if a company filed its proxy statement after May 31, or is not a public company, then those companies' GC salaries were not considered.
Here are some of the top-earning GCs according to the 2014 survey:
1. Brackett Denniston, General Electric $5,827,000 (was 1st in 2013 also);
2. Gary G. Lynch, Bank of America $5,456,840 (up from 3rd in 2013) (when you add in stock realized or exercised, the total goes up to $7,412,269);
3. Gerson Zweifach, Twenty-First Century Fox $5,250,000 (up from 13th in 2013);
4. Paul T. Cappuccio, Time Warner $5,062,685 (was 4th in 2013 also) (when you add in stock realized or exercised, the total goes up to $14,968,830);
5. John Finley, Blackstone Group $4,562,555 (first time on list) (when you add in stock realized or exercised the total goes up to $6,746,555).
Where the Ladies At?
Survey results were broken down by gender for the first time and "Despite the gloomy data, better news may be on the horizon for women," says Corporate Counsel. What are the gloomy results? Twenty women made it in the top 100, but none made it into the top 10 category. One recruiter notes that "general counsel are less likely to leave top in-house spots until they've seen performance awards vest," which may explain the low number of women on the list. That said, the recruiter noted that almost half of the recruiting firm's placements are women, which will lead to more women moving up the ranks to GC -- as the positions open up.
These figures may be overwhelming, but as we've noted before that GCs of the future will have to be counselors, strategists and leaders, and their salaries reflect that. As one consultant noted, GCs "are expected to have the full spectrum of understanding of the business and they may give advice -- give guidance through a legal lens--but they're really there as a business partner."
Editor's Note, July 19, 2016: This post was first published in July, 2014. It has since been updated. (If you're looking for the 2015 survey, check here. Spoiler alert: GCs are still making a ton of money.)