Top-Earning In House: Altria GC Made $6.5M in Cash Compensation

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on July 21, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Denise Keane, leader of the legal department at Altria Group, made around $6.5 million in cash last year. And, she's landed the position of No. 1 amongst General Counsel compensation, reports the ABA Journal.

Before you get green with envy, know this: she got $5.7 million as a nonequity incentive bonus, reports the ABA Journal.

No small amount of change for a bonus - which is likely going to incentivize her plenty. Wouldn't most GCs (and attorneys for that matter) love to get such a nice chunk of change?

Maybe Keane deserves all the compensation she's getting, as Altria is the parent company of Philip Morris USA and other tobacco products. It's not like she will likely face a dearth of legal issues or lawsuits coming her way anytime soon.

Of course, Keane's cash salary may be impressive. But, in terms of stock compensation, she wasn't the leader.

Apple GC Bruce Sewell has received upwards of $28.4 million in stock compensation, the ABA Journal reports.

Interestingly enough, Keane is only one of 14 women who were able to make the list of 100 top-paid general counsels, created by Corporate Counsel, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Keane's pay is definitely not the norm in the in-house world. The average base salary of in-house counsel was around $622,461, according to the survey, with the cash bonus averaging at around $1.2 million. On average, GCs got stock option awards at around $901,000, or outright stock awards at $1.6 million, the ABA Journal reports.

If you're not one of these GCs who are raking in the dough, don't despair. You're probably not the only one, as previous surveys had shown that in-house counsel salaries are actually slowing down.

And, before you continue to lament the fact that you aren't paid as well Denise Keane, maybe it'll be a small comfort to know that unfortunately even in this economy, even experienced GCs may face a tough time landing a job - and getting a salary.

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