Lawyer Pay

Top-Earning GC Is a Woman Who Made $6.5M In Cash Compensation

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A woman who is chief legal officer of tobacco giant Altria Group is the nation’s top-earning general counsel.

Denise Keane earned $6.5 million in total cash compensation in 2010, putting her in the No. 1 spot in a survey of general counsel pay, Corporate Counsel reports. No woman has held the top spot since Corporate Counsel first conducted the survey in 1994.

Keane’s earnings were boosted with a $5.7 million nonequity incentive bonus, awarded as part of a long-term incentive package covering a three-year cycle, a spokesman told Corporate Counsel.

Fourteen women made the list of the 100 top-paid general counsel, based on cash compensation, up from 13 the year before. The list is compiled from public records of the top five earners at Fortune 500 companies, according to a separate story on methodology.

The top earner in terms of stock awards was Apple general counsel Bruce Sewell, who received awards worth $28.4 million.

The survey found average base pay was $622,461 and the average cash bonus was $1.2 million. Overall, total cash payments to general counsel were up 18 percent, the story says. In addition, the average stock option award was $901,000, an increase of 39 percent, and the average outright stock award was $1.6 million, up 33 percent.

“The worst seems to be over, and experts say that corporations are rewarding their executives for getting them through the recession’s darkest day,” the story says.

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