Bonuses fall, but that's not the whole story

CASH bonuses for the heads of Australia's biggest companies have fallen to levels not seen before the financial crisis as profits and share prices have come under pressure.

CASH bonuses for the heads of Australia's biggest companies have fallen to levels not seen before the financial crisis as profits and share prices have come under pressure.

The latest annual remuneration report by the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors, showed average bonus payments of $1.25 million last year were down to their lowest level since 2004. The bonus payments were 20 per cent below the previous year.

The ACSI report, to be released this morning, shows fixed pay of chief executives in Australia's top 100 listed companies held steady in 2011. Overall, the average cash pay for a top 100 CEO declined by 8.9 per cent from 2010 levels to $3.05 million, reflecting the fall in bonus sizes.

ACSI chief executive Ann Byrne said a more mature conversation on executive pay was taking place between boards and investors.

"It is clear that directors began listening to shareholder views on bonus sizes during 2011 and began making the adjustments that have continued into the first part of 2012," she said yesterday.

Even so, 90 per cent of CEOs still received some form of bonus payments over their fixed pay cheque, she noted.

ACSI's analysis of remuneration for Australia's top 200 companies throws new light on how much our corporate leaders are really paid.

It shows the pay gap between what is reported in company disclosures and what CEOs take home. BHP Billiton's Marius Kloppers was last year paid $11.08 million but his realised pay was $17.3 million, the ACSI report shows. The statutory disclosures of ANZ's Mike Smith show he was paid $10.03 million in 2011 but realised $14.74 million.

Minimum disclosures often fail to take into account that many CEOs receive additional packages such as deferred bonus shares.

For CEOs of top 100 companies who parted ways with their company last year, the average termination payment was $2.92 million.

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