Last summer, when David Calhoun went from being a vice chairman at General Electric Co. to CEO of the publishing company VNU Group BV for a reported $100 million pay package, it confirmed what executive recruiters already knew: The market for senior executives was being flooded by compensation dollars from hedge fund and private equity buyouts, which were not susceptible to pressure from shareholders or the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Put this deluge together with the reality of a small pool of experienced, scandal-free executives, and there is only one conclusion possible: the squeeze on executive pay anticipated in the wake of new compensation disclosure rules and investor disapproval is not materializing, at least for now. "In fact, what we have seen is just the opposite," says Russell Boyle, head of the U.S. financial officers practice of Egon Zehnder, the international search firm.

The law of supply and demand, it would seem, has trumped the laws of Congress and the SEC when it comes to senior executive pay–and nowhere is that more true than in the finance arena. Look at the numbers: According to Mercer Human Resource Consulting, median pay for a CFO–considering only cash compensation–dropped to $330,000 in 2003 from $351,000 in 2002, when the Enron Corp. scandal was still fresh. But for the next three years, it jumped up–peaking in 2006 at $421,500. While that represented only a 1.2% increase over the year before, it followed a 15.5% increase between 2004 and 2005 and a 20.1% increase between 2002 and 2006. Treasurers, on the other hand, experienced almost no fallout from Enron and saw the biggest year-over-year growth of any of the three finance titles in 2006–up 7.6% to $248,200 over 2005 and 24% between 2002 and 2006. Corporate controllers fared the worst over the longer period–up only 18% between 2002 and 2006.

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