When times are bad, it’s tempting to question the pay stubs of the rich and famous. How could executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac earn tens of millions as they steered their companies—and the country—onto rocky shoals? Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas has spent nearly two years on the bench—he wears nice suits, but is he worth one of the NBA’s biggest salaries?
Here are some of the fattest paychecks in Washington. Figures are the most recent available.
Titans of Industry
“What’s in your wallet?”
That’s what McLean credit-card giant Capital One asks in its television ads. But turn the question on company CEO Richard Fairbank. In the five years prior to 2008 and the infusion of billions of federal bailout money to CapOne, Fairbank earned nearly $380 million—the country’s sixth-highest payout to a public-company CEO, according to Forbes. Fairbank hasn’t taken a salary or bonus since 1997 but has been rewarded with stock and stock options.
Other Washington execs with five-year compensation packages that landed them on Forbes’s 2008 list of top-earning CEOs: Nicholas Chabraja, General Dynamics, $141 million (18th on the Forbes list); Bill Marriott, Marriott International, $118 million (27th); Dale Wolf, former CEO of Coventry Health Care, $62 million (88th); Robert Stevens, Lockheed Martin, $59 million (95th); Lawrence Culp, Danaher, $49 million (113th).
Two-year compensation for other CEOs (as reported by the companies in 2008 SEC filings and including salary, bonus, stock, and stock-option awards but not the value of exercised stock options, if any):
Martine Rothblatt, United Therapeutics, $31.6 million; Malon Wilkus, American Capital, $20.8 million; Craig Dubow, Gannett, $15.7 million; Paul Hanrahan, AES, $14.1 million; Charles Ledsinger, Choice Hotels, $11.8 million; David Schaeffer, Cogent Communications, $13.8 million; Dennis Wraase, Pepco, $13.4 million; Mihael Polymeropoulos, Vanda Pharmaceuticals, $11.9 million.
Pay for executives of troubled companies drew howls of outrage. The year before the government took over operations, Fannie Mae paid CEO Daniel Mudd $12 million and Freddie Mac doled out $18 million to CEO Richard Syron.
How Much by the Hour?
The Obama Justice Department is filling up with lawyers from white-shoe firms and other companies, and their financial-disclosure reports offer a rare look at the paychecks of top legal eagles.
In 2008, Eric Holder collected more than $3.3 million from Covington & Burling, where he handled such clients as the National Football League, Yahoo, and Pfizer. David Ogden, Holder’s deputy attorney general and a former partner with WilmerHale, earned more than $1.5 million.
Lanny Breuer, who’ll head up the criminal division at Justice, reported nearly $2.4 million in pay and deferred compensation from Covington & Burling. Christine Varney, Obama’s pick as antitrust chief, pulled down at least $1.5 million as head of Hogan & Hartson’s Internet group. She also moonlighted as a director for Ryder and for Exclusive Resorts, AOL guru Steve Case’s vacation-resort company, collecting $500,000 in cash, stock, and restricted stock from the two companies.
Greg Craig, Obama’s White House counsel, made $1.7 million at Williams & Connolly.
Legal Times reported last year that revenues for the top 20 Washington firms exceeded $5 billion for the first time. Skadden, Arps—home of rainmaker Robert Bennett—topped the trade paper’s salary survey, paying partners an average of $2.3 million.