Finance Industry Pays General Counsel the Most

By William Vogeler, Esq. on August 07, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Morgan Stanley's Eric Grossman made nearly $7 million last year, the most among general counsel in a new survey.

According to the 2018 General Counsel Compensation Survey, Grossman topped 341 in-house attorneys in compensation. That included salary, cash bonuses, and nonequity incentives.

The survey also had good news for most general counsel, reporting that salaries increased slightly and bonuses jumped 31 percent. The bad news is their average cash compensation went down.

Bad News

If $2 million in annual compensation is bad news, then some general counsel had a tough year. The average compensation was down almost $100,000.

That was due to a 7.4 percent decrease in nonequity incentives. They dropped from $1,201,865 in 2016 to $1,113,017 last year -- comprising about half the overall compensation for the average general counsel.

In the grand scheme, Altria Group's former general counsel apparently is partly to blame for the average decrease. She retired last year with more than $9 million.

Removing her from the analysis for everybody else, that was bad news. Go figure.

Good News

Otherwise, especially for Grossman and other corporate attorneys at the top of the compensation heap, it's been pretty much good news.

To make the biggest bucks, Corporate Counsel says "it might help to become a GC in the finance industry." According to the publication, the finance and entertainment industries have led the way in GC compensation in recent years.

"GCs on the entertainment side are doing lots and lots of deals, and on the finance side they're dealing with a heavily regulated environment," said executive compensation consultant Todd Sirras.

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