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December’s Highlights (and Lowlights) in Executive Compensation

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One of the nice things about being a chief executive officer in the U.S. is that you never find a lump of coal in your stocking in December. Whether they've been naughty or nice to shareholders, CEOs tend to get lavishly rewarded. Michelle Leder of Footnoted.com joined me to discuss some of the choices executive compensation and perk morsels contained in December's Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

Hire's to You! Most employees get an identity card, several passwords, and perhaps a mug or pen when they show up for their first day of work at a new company. Michael Orsinger, the CEO of Synthes, the Swiss medical device and implant manufacturer that was acquired by Johnson & Johnson in December, did a little better. Orsinger, who is staying with J&J to run the newly acquired unit, is receiving a $700,000 salary, which is par for the course. But a filing revealed he's also receiving a $17.2 million "new hire grant." And it's not like the company didn't take care of Orsinger during the acquisition. As Footnoted.com notes, an amended S-4 filed in late October also disclosed that "Orsinger stands to make somewhere between $36.2 million and $51.9 million under an agreement with Synthes that was finalized in the days before the deal with J&J was announced."

IGT Directors Hit the Jackpot. Being a director of a large, publicly held company is arduous work. You have to show up at meetings, rubber stamp plans, and make small talk with fellow shareholders — and occasionally make tough decisions about companies' fates. The stock of International Game Technology, which makes gaming machines, hasn't exactly come up big in the last five years. But the company decided that its directors needed a 130 percent raise. The company disclosed that the annual retainer has been bumped up from $65,000 to $150,000, and it has increased extra fees and stock awards. "So the base salary of these nine directors is $300 K and goes up from there," Footnoted.com reports.
Keeping it Realist at Qualcomm. Brent Scowcroft, who served as National Security Advisor in the Ford and first Bush administration, is known as a cold-eyed realist when it comes to foreign policy. The small fortune he's been able to amass in 17 years as a director at communications company Qualcomm is also real — real impressive. In its preliminary proxy, Qualcomm disclosed that Scowcroft, who joined the board in 1994, has managed to build a stake in the company worth more than $26.6 million. Scowcroft also receives an annual retainer of $100,000, more cash for committee work, and $200,000 per year in Deferred Stock Units for serving on the board.

Apple of His Eye. Most well-heeled consumers dig into their own pockets to buy iPads, iPhones, and the other cool products made by Apple. But being a CEO sometimes means you don't have to brave the long lines at Apple retail outlets in the middle of the Christmas shopping rush. In early December, Auxilium Pharmaceuticals, which makes "pharmaceutical products that focus on urology and sexual health," announced that CEO Armando Anido "agreed to step down." On Friday, December 23, after the stock market closed, Auxilium filed Anido's severance agreement. The package includes: $1.9 million (nearly four times his $555,000 base salary), and full vesting of options and restricted stock units scheduled to vest over the next two years, which could be worth millions more. That would seem to be plenty of money to pay for all the personal electronics one person would require. But it's such a hassle to buy and set up new hardware. So Anido was allowed to keep his company-issued iPhone, iPad and laptop computer — provided he cooperates with Auxlium to remove all corporate data from them.

For the best of 2011 see: 2011′s Executive Compensation Highlights (and Lowlights)

Daniel Gross is economics editor at Yahoo! Finance

Follow him on Twitter @grossdm; email him at grossdaniel11@yahoo.com

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