CEO pay rises at most local public companies

Huge increases for some, though a handful of executives see big cuts

October 07, 2012|By Jamie Smith Hopkins, The Baltimore Sun

As pay raises go, it's hard to beat a fivefold increase.

That's the jump Hunt Valley-based Omega Healthcare Investors' CEO saw in compensation last year. After getting a thumbs down for its executive pay from a shareholder advisory firm, the company told investors his pay package skyrocketed to $7.8 million because stock awards at the firm are doled out once every three years or so, and 2011 was one of those years.

But even with the adjustments Omega suggests, such as dividing the multiyear incentives by three, CEO C. Taylor Pickett's pay doubled — in a year in which the company's profits and stock price fell.

The executive pay data disclosed this year by the Baltimore region's 20 largest publicly traded firms in terms of revenue offers plenty of fodder — as it does every year — to feed the ire of workers whose paychecks barely budge, if they budge at all.

A dozen CEOs saw double-digit increases in annual compensation. And Mayo A. Shattuck III, who retained his spot at the top of the list in his last year running the then-independent Constellation Energy Group, received a nearly $17.4 million package in 2011 — up from $15.7 million — as the Baltimore company turned in its second straight year of multimillion-dollar losses.

Exelon Corp., Constellation's new parent, contends that total compensation really was flat — it's just that the fluctuating value of Shattuck's pension plan rose last year. The company defended Constellation's executive compensation as "pay for performance."

"News of Constellation's merger with Exelon in 2011 created more than $1.5 billion in value for Constellation shareholders by the time the merger closed in 2012," said Paul Adams, an Exelon spokesman, in a statement.

Meanwhile, six local CEOs received pay cuts — big ones. Take, for instance, Corporate Office Properties Trust's Randall M. Griffin, whose compensation was slashed in half in his final full year with the real estate investment trust before he retired.

The company recorded a nearly $134 million loss in 2011 after taking impairment charges on properties it intended to sell, and its stock was pummeled by investors fearful of its reliance on the budget-crunched federal government.

Most of the reduced CEO pay was paired with sinking company performance, but not all. Under Armour's Kevin A. Plank, who has built a reputation for comparatively modest pay packages, saw his compensation drop 14 percent last year to $1.1 million as the sports apparel company's profits and stock price soared.

Plank wasn't awarded more, the Baltimore company told shareholders, because Under Armour didn't meet all its goals. (He's not hurting. The Under Armour founder is his company's biggest shareholder and made Forbes' list of the 400 richest Americans this year.)

Anger over big payouts for high-flying execs has grown in recent years as the rough economy buffets average Americans. A.L. "Tom" Giannopoulos, who heads Columbia-based Micros Systems and is No. 3 on the local top-compensated list, said it's no secret that there's a "negative attitude toward CEO pay."

"In certain cases, yes, you have an abuse," he said last week. "And in certain other cases, you have a reasonable pay package that is a win-win situation for the shareholders and management. When the company performs well, like we have, then management gets a reasonable pay package."

He thinks his pay falls on the reasonable side of the fence because most of the nearly $8.7 million he received in Micros' 2011 fiscal year, which ended June 30 of last year, came in the form of a bonus and stock options he wouldn't have received if the company hadn't met its annual revenue and profit goals.

Giannopoulos' pay rose 10 percent as Micros' profits increased 26 percent and revenue crossed over the $1 billion mark. The stock price jumped by more than half. In the fiscal year that included the roughest stretch of 2008 and 2009, by contrast, his pay was a much lower $2.8 million.

At Omega Healthcare, a real estate investment trust that specializes in nursing homes, profits slipped 4 percent and its stock price dropped 14 percent last year. But it, too, characterized its CEO pay as fair after Institutional Shareholder Services, an investor advisory firm, called the company out for high compensation at a time of "lackluster returns."

In a letter to shareholders, Omega said that its executive compensation — which made Pickett the fifth-highest-paid local CEO — "is very reasonable" considering the company's steadily rising dividends and an annualized shareholder return in the previous 10 years that far outpaced the Standard & Poor's 500 index.

Omega, which did not return messages seeking comment, couldn't convince all its shareholders. Investors holding 27 percent of shares rejected the executive pay program in an advisory "say on pay" vote in June. Nearly all had voted in favor the year before.

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