It was a year of layoffs and austerity, of high unemployment and outrage over executive pay. So in 2009, CFO compensation could be expected to fall, right? But last year also saw increases in corporate profits and GDP growth, not to mention an unexpectedly strong stock market rebound. As a result, despite all the bad news, connecting the dots on last year's trends in compensation shows an erratic sense of direction. And though there's talk of increases across the board in everything from salaries to the value of long-term stock awards, complex factors could yield surprises in 2010 as well.
Whether overall compensation increased or declined last year is open to debate. Treasury & Risk commissioned a study of the 2009 compensation of 50 Fortune 500 CFOs from Equilar, a Redwood Shores, Calif.-based executive compensation research firm. The study showed median total compensation rose 5% to $4.8 million, from $4.5 million in 2008, but a closer look revealed that results were down in each pay category. For example, the median salary dropped 5.8% to $655,000, while the value of option awards fell 14.7% to $631,801 and stock awards declined 19%.