Tamar Fleishman 8:26 p.m., Nov. 27
Slurp! Slurp! SERP Propels Felsinger's Pay
Donald Felsinger, chief executive of Sempra Energy, "is way overpaid," says Graef (Bud) Crystal, former San Diegan who is one of the world's ranking experts on executive compensation. The recent proxy statement for the San Diego-based utility listed Felsinger's total compensation last year at just shy of $21 million. Of that figure, $12.6 million came from SERP, or Supplemental Executive Retirement Plan, says Crystal, adding that SERPs "create a class of senior executives akin to British royalty. And in most instances, they are, in my view, morally wrong." Some people call SERPs "top hat plans."
Crystal recently put together Bloomberg/Business Week's compilation of last year's compensation for 271 chief executives, 189 of whom had SERPs, or plans for top executives providing benefits above those of other retirement plans. The executives getting SERPs got, on average, an extra $1.8 million in the present value of pensions. Five really stood out. The second most egregious was Felsinger's $12.6 million. In coming in second, Felsinger beat out numbers three, four, and five, the chief executives of some big companies: AT&T, Boeing, and Johnson & Johnson.