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Executive Paychecks Reflect Company’s Fortunes

Nationally, compensation for public company chief executives increased in 2016, and the trend held for the greater Valley region as well. Fifteen of the top 25 chief executives of public companies in the San Fernando, Conejo and Santa Clarita valleys area received boosts in compensation. Ronald Tutor, head of construction and engineering firm Tutor Perini Corp. in Sylmar, was at the top of those increases with a 102 percent rise in 2016 compared to a year earlier, according to the Business Journal’s list of Executive Compensation (see page 16). Tutor received stock awards worth $6.9 million last year, while his base salary remained the same at $1.8 million. Alan Johnson, managing director at pay consulting firm Johnson Associates, in New York, said that 2016 was a good year overall for executive pay. At the top end were technology and health-related companies, while retail ranked at the lower end of the spectrum. Within those broad boundaries, how much executives were paid had a lot to do with the performance of the individual companies, Johnson said. “It is not so much macro trends but more about the particular business,” he added. Retaining his position at the top of the compensation list was Robert Iger, chief executive of Burbank entertainment and media giant Walt Disney Co. He saw his total compensation decrease by 2 percent to $43.9 million. Disney’s board has been tolerant of what is turning out to be an embarrassing situation where the company does not have a successor in place for Iger, who plans to retire in 2019, Johnson said. Iger has been a great chief executive for Disney and it would make sense to pay him what he wanted to stay on for a longer term, he added. “If he said, ‘I am going to stay till I drop,’ I think the stock will go up,” Johnson said. After Iger, however, there is a steep drop-off on the list. The No. 2 executive was Robert Bradway of Amgen Inc. in Thousand Oaks, with $16.9 million. Rounding out the top five were Tutor; Ronald Havner of Public Storage; and Stanford Kurland of PennyMac Financial Services Inc. Only five women chief executives made the list and one of those, Julia Stewart, stepped down as the head of restaurant chain operator DineEquity Inc. in March. Stewart was No. 12 on the list with a total compensation $4.5 million, a 12 percent decrease from the prior year. Other women on the list included Maria Hawthorne of PS Business Parks Inc., Wendy Simpson of LTC Properties Inc., Bethany Mayer of Ixia (acquired this year by Keysight Technologies Inc.) and Therese Tucker of BlackLine Inc., which went public in October. Dropping off the list this year were Jeffrey Katzenberg, who stepped down as chief executive of DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. after it was acquired by Comcast Corp. Katzenberg was No. 3 in 2015 with a compensation of $13.5 million. For non-chief executive compensation, five companies dominated the list, taking 19 out of the 25 spots with three or more names each (see page 18). John Reyes, the chief financial officer and senior vice president at Public Storage, topped the list with $14.3 million in compensation in 2016, a 15 percent increase from the prior year. He is joined by three other company executives from the company on the list. The second through fourth spots were all the same company – Disney, with general counsel Alan Braverman logging the highest compensation at $11.1 million. Amgen, PennyMac and pressure-sensitive labels manufacturer Avery Dennison Corp. rounded out the top five place-holders on the list. Todd Sirras, a managing director at Semler Brossy, an independent executive compensation consulting firm in Los Angeles, said that this period has been a normal one for executive pay as there is nothing “crazy” going on. Increases have been modest, adjusting to the current business environment and there have been fewer one-time big awards, Sirras said. “You see a lot more description and rationale about how decisions are made,” he explained. Sirras believes that “say on pay” measures required by the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act has had an influence in providing accountability and information to shareholders about how much a company’s executives receive. Say on Pay is a mandatory, nonbinding shareholder resolution offered by company management asking investors to approve the compensation package for a company’s named executive officers – the CEO, CFO and three other most highly compensated officers. “That has had the effect of adding another voice into the conversation,” Sirras said. One uncertainty facing public companies is the future of Dodd-Frank. It was made into law in 2010 as a response to the financial shenanigans that brought on the recession two years earlier. The reforms, however, have been a target of President Donald Trump, who has made public statements about rolling back some of its provisions. What Trump will do is significant but nothing is likely to take effect until 2019, Johnson said. Coming next year are filing requirements of the pay ratio rule, also part of Dodd-Frank and set by the Securities & Exchange Commission two years ago. The rule requires disclosure of the ratio between what a CEO makes and the median employee salary. Publicizing the ratio is going to make news stories about executive compensation more interesting in 2018, said Johnson. The calculation of the ratio is in his opinion “bogus” because it includes part-time employees, he added. “It is intentionally skewed to make executives look bad,” Johnson said.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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