GC Compensation on the Rise, Particularly for Tech/Media, Women

Median compensation for General Counsels rose 2.4% among Fortune 1000 companies according to a November 6 article by Catherine Dunn which reported on Equilar’s survey of annual pay for 404 of the industry’s top legal officers. In total, this amounted to an average total compensation package of just over $1.4 million. Broken down even further, Equilar’s report found a median base salary of $425,000, median bonuses of $287,000, median options of $120,000, median stock of $120,000, and median performance incentives of $255,000.

Another interesting finding within the report was how greatly GC compensation varied sector-to-sector. According to Dunn, there were also variations based on paycheck size, industry, and tenure at the company. Yet the industry differences are striking—GC’s of Technology, Media, and Telecom companies earned a median total of nearly $1.68 million, while those with Retail and Consumer companies took home $500,000 less with a median total of $1.15 million. All in all not too bad, but similar pay discrepancies by sector are likely to extend to smaller (non-Fortune 1000) companies as well.

Other interesting findings within the report include:

  • Reporting to the CEO makes a big difference. GC’s that report to the CEO earned $1.53 million or 67% more than the $760,000 of those that do not.
  • Years of experience is important. GC’s with 10+ years of experience earned $1.44 million while those with less than 3 years earned $1.21 million.
  • Women on average earn more. Women earned $1.29 million while their male counterparts earned $1.11 million.
  • Dual roles can mean lower pay. GC’s that also served as Secretary earned $1.03 million, while pure GC’s earned $1.3 million.
  • 69% are eligible for “desirable perks”, which have no apparent tie to who you report to. Perks included: premium insurance (36%), company cars/drivers (24%), company aircraft (12%), tax gross-ups (9%), club memberships (8%), and home/personal security (4%).
  • The most common incentive awards were time-based stock, which 64% of GC’s received.

According to Dunn and these numbers, the financial outlook for GC’s is more positive in 2012 than 2011. While the data used was from Fortune 1000 companies only, it is reasonable to assume similar trends are taking place at smaller to mid-size companies as well.