The corrupted board of directors system gets little attention in relation to what is happening in the C-suite. But these positions, littered with other companies CEOs, and former C-level executives, offer amongst the best ‘part time’ work in America. Median pay amongst Fortune 500 directors is set to jump to $234K this year. (I’ll refrain from the joke about this does not include pay from insider trading, as this morning’s headlines demonstrate)
Not bad for a job that on average requires 4.3 hrs a week of work. (if you believe the 4.3 hr figure, that would extrapolate to a $2.2M full time job) You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours is alive and well in our corporate boardrooms.
- Directorships, already among the best-paying part-time jobs in Corporate America, are becoming even more lucrative. Fortune 500 directors could receive median pay of nearly $234,000 in 2011. That’s a 10% jump from the 2010 median of $212,500, according to an analysis out Wednesday by compensation consultant Towers Watson.
- Behind the increases: higher cash retainers and gains on Wall Street, which lifted the value of directors’ stock compensation 9% last year — the biggest jump in equity award values since 2006, Towers Watson pay consultant Doug Friske says.
- Directorships can be far more lucrative. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) directors averaged more than $984,000 in 2010, while Occidental Petroleum directors averaged nearly $420,000. Moreover, while Towers Watson found median pay up 6% in 2010 and expects gains of up to 10% in 2011, firms such as Allergan and Navistar are boosting retainers by up to 80%.
- Directors are tasked with overseeing management, executive pay and corporate strategy. (or in some companies, nodding their head in agreement with everything the CEO says… and of course many CEOs are Chairman of the Board – no conflict of interest there) Typically, their ranks have been filled by CEOs and retired executives. (hey, you sit on my board – I’ll sit on yours!)
This always leads me to wonder about how CEOs have time to sit on another company’s board. I mean, they tell us they have among the most stressful jobs in the country, and they have to work unheard of hours. Some direct companies with 30, 50, 100K+ workers. Hence the exorbitant pay packages. Yet with all the hours and stress of job #1, they have time to oversee another company?
- Aside from a handful of board and committee meetings, directorships typically consume little time. A recent National Association of Corporate Directors study found directors averaging just 4.3 hours a week on board work.
- Critics says directors are largely overpaid and ineffective. “Far too much of their time has been for check-the-box and cover-your-behind activities rather than real monitoring of executives and providing strategic advice on behalf of shareholders,” says John Gillespie, a former investment banker and co-author of Money for Nothing: How the Failure of Corporate Boards is Ruining American Business and Costing Us Trillions.
- While CEO pay has come under increasing scrutiny, director pay has largely flown under the radar. Stubbornly high unemployment and the growing disparity between the pay of rank-and-file workers and executives could put fresh scrutiny on directors by movements such as “Occupy Wall Street.”
Trader Mark is the author of Fund My Mutual Fund.