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What you need to know for 03/20/2018

GE details compensation program, cuts bonuses

GE details compensation program, cuts bonuses

2017 was the first time in GE history that top officers did not get a bonus
 GE details compensation program, cuts bonuses
General Electric's iconic Schenectady sign is seen on Nov. 19, 2016.
Photographer: Peter Barber/Daily Gazette photographer

Jeffrey Immelt received $8.11 million in compensation for his final months running General Electric even as it stumbled through one of the most tumultuous stretches in its 126-year history.

The former chief executive officer and chairman received $2.86 million in salary during 2017, GE said in a regulatory filing Monday. Immelt, 62, who stepped down as the top executive in August and from the board two months later, also got $1.87 million in perks, mostly relocation benefits. The remaining $3.37 million reflected a change in the value of his pension and deferred compensation.

While GE had started to show signs of stress early last year, the company fell hard in the months after Immelt's exit. New CEO John Flannery slashed the dividend, replaced many top managers and announced deep cost cuts to help deal with cash-flow shortfalls and flagging demand for gas turbines, locomotives and other industrial equipment. GE was the worst performing stock in the Dow Jones Industrial Average in 2017, plunging 45 percent and losing $125 billion in market value.

GE's troubles have continued in 2018. The Boston-based company is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission over its past accounting practices and has the biggest pension shortfall among major U.S. public companies.

"The last year has been a difficult one for GE's shareowners, and no one is more disappointed in our results than" the board, Jack Brennan, GE's lead director, said in the filing. Senior leaders, including the current and former CEOs, chief financial officer and general counsel, didn't receive a bonus in 2017 -- the first time that's happened in GE's history, he said.

Immelt, who led GE for 16 years, exited with benefits and deferred shares worth about $100 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That included a pension of roughly $84 million and about $10 million in deferred compensation. He was recently named chairman of Athenahealth Inc.

Flannery, 56, the former head of GE Healthcare who took over as CEO on Aug. 1, got $9 million for 2017, including $1.74 million in salary, stock options valued at $2.08 million and a $3.26 million adjustment to the value of his pension and deferred compensation.

His pay was 157 times higher than that of GE's median employee, which the company identified as a GE Healthcare worker in Germany who made $57,211. The disclosure is part of a broader federal rule change requiring public companies to reveal how CEO compensation stacks up against that of the company's employees.

The new CEO made changes to GE's executive-compensation programs to improve accountability and better align pay with investor priorities. In November, the company said it would scrap long-term cash bonuses for about 1,000 executives and replace part of top employees' cash compensation with equity.

What impact the bonus cutbacks will have on General Electric leaders who live and work in the Capital Region was unclear. Roughly 3,800 senior leaders globally receive bonuses from the company, which has more than 300,000 employees in more than 180 countries.

Individual employees' bonuses have been determined, but aside from the handful mentioned in Monday's proxy statement, they have not been disclosed.

The company also would not say how many of those senior leaders work at the roughly 4,000-employee Schenectady campus or the roughly 2,000-employee Niskayuna campus.

The proxy statement does indicate that 2017 bonuses were allocated from a single pool for the whole company; individual bonuses were based on the performance of that employee's business. That would be bad news for senior leaders of GE Power, which performed poorly in 2017.

The proxy statement indicates the bonus money available for 2018 will be broken into separate pools for each business, and the size of the pool will depend on the performance of that business.

GE is also overhauling its board, shrinking to 12 directors from as many as 18, while adding several new members such as former Danaher Corp. CEO Larry Culp. The company looked for candidates with "skill sets that were closely aligned to GE's future portfolio," said Brennan, who doesn't plan to seek re-election in 2019.

Former CFO Jeff Bornstein, who stepped down at the end of 2017, received $6.9 million, excluding $7.7 million of restricted stock units that were canceled. Former vice chairs Beth Comstock and John Rice, who also left the company in recent months, received $9.03 million and $7.88 million, respectively.

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