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Compensation for most CFOs has been hard hit by the economic downturn–and it’s not making life any easier for Russell Boyle. The head of the financial services practice at New York-based executive search firm Egon Zehnder International, Boyle has had trouble filling a number of jobs at major public companies lately because his clients simply don’t have the resources to pay the candidates enough. One company, a business with no debt and plenty of cash, has been turned down by no fewer than three prospective CFOs over the past five months, including people working for smaller, private firms.

“In the old days, a $50,000 to $100,000 gap could be bridged. Now they can’t do it,” he says. “This situation is the worst I’ve seen in the past 15 years.” It’s the perfect storm. With the S&P 500 down 38%, unemployment at 8.5%, consumer spending and real personal income flat, and a still-tight credit market, few companies have escaped the effects of the economic crisis. One of the many casualties has been executive compensation, including pay for CFOs, treasurers and other top-level finance executives. At the same time, public ire over perceived excesses in pay for top officers at AIG and Wall Street firms receiving government bailout money is putting even more pressure on all companies to scrutinize compensation packages. “No one wants activists showing up in their neighborhood, picketing their house,” says Boyle.

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