Top-paid general counsel

July 20, 2011
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A list released by Corporate Counsel,  an ALM National publication, ranks the compensation of general counsel around the U.S. and there are some highly paid attorneys out there. The top-paid in-house attorney is Denise Keane of Altria Group Inc., the parent company of Phillip Morris USA and other companies. For the first time in the history of this list, a woman was the top-paid general counsel. She was listed as having more than $6.4 million in compensation.

It’s interesting to see that Keane went from being ranked 34th in 2010 to first this year. Donald de Brier with Occidental Petroleum Corp. went from 63rd last year to second this year.

Robert Armitage, the general counsel at Eli Lilly and Co., ranked No. 33, with more than $1.78 million in total compensation. He was ranked at No. 24 last year. Armitage’s salary is listed at just under $848,000. John Cannon II, general counsel at WellPoint Inc., came in at No. 63. He didn’t even make last year’s list. His salary is listed at around $550,000, but he took home more than $1.3 million.

The list breaks down compensation to show salary, bonus/nonequity incentive compensation, total cash, option exercises and stock value realized, total cash plus stock value realized, stock awards, and option awards. The rankings are based on the total cash the general counsel received.

The publication noted that this survey shows more of an “undoing of damage of the previous year than any great leap in compensation levels.” It writes that the worst seems to be over regarding the economy, and corporations are rewarding executives for getting them through the tough days of the recession.

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