GE counsel tops list of in-house high earners

General Electric’s (GE) general counsel has been named as the highest-paid in-house lawyer in the US, after pocketing a staggering $4.365m (£2.449m) in 2003.

According to the latest statistics, compiled by industry magazine Corporate Counsel, Benjamin Heineman’s impressive remuneration package included bonuses totalling $2.89m (£1.62m), which is an 11 per cent increase on his 2002 deal. He also pocketed an extra $3,597,750 (£1,815,860) in realised stock. The former Sidley & Austin (now Sidley Austin Brown & Wood) man has enlisted a slew of top talent from several prestigious US firms in his 17 years with GE, and is widely regarded as having improved the standard of in-house lawyering.

One of the key findings of the 2003 survey was the realisation of stock options. According to Corporate Counsel: “Chief legal officers doubled their cash-outs between 2002 and 2003, to $95m [£53.3m], with one general counsel, Boston Scientific Corporation’s Paul Sandman, reaping nearly $20m [£11.2m].”

Heineman’s salary increase of 9 per cent was three times the average for the top 100 general counsels in 2003, while the average annual bonus was upped by 7 per cent to $605,773 (£339,808).

General counsel for communications services topped the list, earning more than any other industry, with an average compensation package of $1.4m (£785,300) in the last fiscal year.

US general counsel salaries for 2003
General counsel Company Salary exc bonus ($)
Benjamin Heineman Jr General Electric Company 1,475,000
Michael Fricklas Viacom 1,004,327
James Evans American Financial Group 990,000
Thomas Gottschalk General Motors Corporation 929,167
Charles Wall Altria Group 873,154
Jeffrey Kindler Pfizer 827,900
William Barr Verizon Communications 750,000
James Ellis SBC Communications 744,500
Roger Fine Johnson & Johnson 730,577
John McGoldrick Bristol-Myers Squibb Company 719,996

Source: Corporate Counsel