BHP Billiton's top brass have been awarded millions of dollars worth of long-term incentives, despite the company going backwards in its main performance measurement.
BHP scored negative 9 per cent in terms of "total shareholder returns" over the past five years, but its top executives were still granted rewards because other big resources companies fared even worse.
That comparison group included big global miners such as Barrick Gold, Anglo American and Rio Tinto, who were collectively judged to have a total shareholder return of negative 44 per cent.
"As a result, BHP Billiton outperformed its peer companies by 34.6 per cent and therefore met the requisite performance hurdle for full vesting," the company said.
But wary of bestowing its well-paid executives with lucrative bonuses after a period in which ordinary shareholders lost value, the BHP board decided that executives should get only 65 per cent of the bonuses that the system entitled them to.
That set of calculations left Marius Kloppers - the man who was BHP chief executive for most of that period - with about $11.5 million worth of shares.
His replacement, Andrew Mackenzie, opted to take less than his full entitlement, as part of BHP's new push to reduce the total amount paid to executives.
But he was still paid about £4.6 million ($7.9 million) worth of BHP shares and cash.
Former petroleum boss Mike Yeager, who was the driving force behind BHP's expansion into US shale, was awarded about $5.2 million worth of shares.
BHP has already changed the system that delivered this week's windfall, in a move that some believe shows the company knew it to be far from perfect.
In 2010 BHP changed the system so it was not only compared with other big resources companies, but was also judged against companies from all sorts of sectors, such as banks, airlines and telecoms. It also reviewed its executive remuneration system in 2012 to mark 10 years since the merger of BHP and Billiton.
BlackRock corporate governance expert Pru Bennett said it was good to see the board scale back executive bonuses. "'It's a positive that the board has used its discretion and shown clarity around how it used its discretion. We think boards should have discretion where there are unexpected or unintended adverse outcomes," she said.
Mr Mackenzie is expected to earn about $US7.6 million ($8.4 million) each year if his targets are met. While he can still earn a maximum of $US12.58 million a year if BHP performs exceptionally well, Mr Mackenzie's base salary of $US1.7 million will be lower than the $US2.2 million base paid to Mr Kloppers.