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June’s Highlights (and Lowlights) in Executive Compensation

Daniel Gross

Every day, Michelle Leder and the crew at Footnoted.com scour through Securities and Exchange Commission filings in search of news nuggets and excessive executive compensation. America's publicly held companies oblige with a perennial crop of goodies for top officials.

Level Up! The video game company Electronic Arts (EA) has been struggling to adapt to the new world of social gaming. Check out this sad two-year stock chart, which shows the company has lost about half its value since last November. But it's been a good year for CEO John Riccitiello. As Footnoted.com reports, his total compensation rose from $5.9 million in fiscal 2011 to $9.5 million in fiscal 2012. "The lion's share of his compensation, $7.1 million, came in the form of Restricted Stock Units (RSUs)," Footnoted.com notes. "But he also got $865,538 in salary (which includes a raise of $65,538 from the $800,000 salary he got the prior year) and a non-equity incentive bonus worth more than $1.5 million. That's actually a return to the ballpark of what Riccitiello received in FY 2009 (when he got $9.8 million total compensation). Riccitiello wasn't the only EA insider who did well. Frank Gibeau, president of EA Labels, saw his total compensation rise from $4.1 million in 2011 to $9.8 million in 2012.

Healthy Retirement at McKesson. McKesson Corp. (MCK) is in the business of distributing pharmaceuticals and medical supplies. But its recent proxy shows that it's also in the business of distributing a really healthy retirement plan to John Hammergren, the company's chief executive officer and chairman. Footnoted.com reports that Hammergren's pension is worth $92.6 million, up from $83.4 million a year ago. In an age of widespread retirement income security, Hammergren can rest easy. Footnoted.com notes that Hammergren "has been promised annual income in retirement of at least 60% of his pre-retirement income. And that percentage is guaranteed to rise like clockwork, by 1.5 percentage points a year, as long has he remains on the job, until it reaches 75%." Hammergren has enjoyed a long tenure at the company—he's been CEO since 2001. Add in deferred compensation, and Hammergren's total retirement package could amount to about $118 million — or about half the total that outgoing IBM CEO Samuel Palmisano retired with.

Dollar Tree's Tiffany Compensation. CEOs have lots of reasons to show up for work. They get paid well, they get treated with respect and deference by employees, and they get to run global companies. But these days, it's just not enough. Discount retailer Dollar Tree (DLTR) has been thriving under the leadership of Bob Sasser, who has been CEO since 2004. Check out this very impressive five-year chart. And so we shouldn't begrudge a high level of compensation for its leaders. But Sasser has just been awarded a "special one-time retention award" of $10 million. The rationale: "The independent directors believe that Mr. Sasser has had a direct impact on the significant increase in Dollar Tree's share price during his tenure as Chief Executive Officer since 2004. In light of his contributions to increasing long-term shareholder value, the independent directors believe it is in the best interest of the shareholders to provide an additional incentive for Mr. Sasser to remain with the Company." Now, the award comes in the form of restricted stock units that vest in five years time. But that doesn't mean Sasser will have to shop at his company's stores in the meantime. In 2011, his total compensation came to $6.1 million.

No Goodbyes at Best Buy. Best Buy (BBY), the big box electronics retailer is in crisis. CEO Brian Dunn left the company earlier this year, and online retailers are continuing to eat into its business. Here's the blah five-year chart. As the company searches for a new leader, it has taken steps to ensure that senior executives stay the course. Footnoted.com reports that Best Buy has recently offered "Special Continuity Awards" to the top four executives who have stayed at the company, consisting of $500,000 in cash plus restricted stock worth about $2 million. The recipients include the company's chief financial officer, chief human resources officer, and the executives who run Best Buy's U.S. and European operations.

Daniel Gross is economics editor at Yahoo! Finance

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