SEC likely to scrap, scale back rule on compensation


WASHINGTON -- A plan to force companies to disclose salaries of high-paid employees who are not corporate officers is in jeopardy after a backlash from Hollywood, where film and TV stars often get bigger paychecks than executives.

Opponents claim the measure could put media companies at a competitive disadvantage by forcing them to disclose detailed compensation packages for luminaries such as Tonight Show host Jay Leno, film director Steven Spielberg and Today anchor Katie Couric.

The new rule was proposed by the Securities and Exchange Commission this year to ensure that top corporate policymakers cannot evade disclosure rules. But officials acknowledge that it could potentially expose the salaries of actors and athletes as well.

"My forecast is either the proposal will be significantly scaled back or it will be removed altogether," said SEC Chairman Christopher Cox. "If one takes the commentary seriously, as the commission must, we have to recognize the validity of these concerns."

The SEC currently requires publicly traded companies to disclose compensation packages for the chief executive and the next four highest-paid executives.

The proposed new rule would force companies to make the same disclosures for as many as three additional employees if they take home more money than any of the five officers.

Under the proposal, these other employees would be identified only by job description. Opponents, however, said that would be a dead giveaway to their identities.

Jonathan Peterson writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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