The nine million dollar woman: tobacco GC tops ranking of highest paid US in-house legal heads

Each year, ALM Legal Intelligence digs through proxy filings from companies to determine how much some of the biggest name US in-house legal leaders are paid.

Our 2017 General Counsel Compensation Survey, which reflects pay data from 2016, shows that, while GCs at major US corporations still aren’t paid quite as much as, say, their CEO counterparts, their paychecks are certainly nothing to sniff at.

Here are the top ten in-house earners, ranked by total cash compensation, a metric that integrates salary, bonus and other non-equity pay.

1. Denise Keane

At the top of this year’s rankings is Denise Keane (pictured above) of Altria Group. She took home $9m (£6.7m) in total cash, much of it in the form of bonuses and other non-cash compensation – likely to be tied to her exit from the company after more than 40 years of service. Keane has topped our compensation charts once before, six years ago. And she’s still the only woman to have made it to the top spot since the survey began back in 1994.

2. Alan Braverman

In second place is Alan Braverman of Walt Disney, who brought home total cash compensation of $7m (£5.2m). He was the top earner in our survey for two years running, until being dethroned by Denise Keane in the survey’s latest edition. And Braverman will be around to collect big paychecks for awhile longer – Corporate Counsel reported in August that he has renewed his contract until July 2019.

3. Laureen Seeger

The only woman aside from Altria’s Denise Keane to grace the top 10 list on this year’s survey, Laureen Seeger is the GC of American Express Company. She brought home an impressive $6.2m (£4.6m) in total cash compensation this past year. Seeger started at the company in 2014, after a stint as an in-house legal leader at McKesson Corporation.

4. Paul Cappuccio

Coming in at number four in this year’s rankings is Paul Cappuccio of Time Warner, who made $6m (£4.5m) in total cash. Cappuccio is a former America Online general counsel and a former partner at Kirkland & Ellis in Washington DC. In his earlier years, he was a US Supreme Court law clerk to the late Justice Antonin Scalia and to Justice Anthony Kennedy.

5. Lawrence Tu

Right behind Cappuccio is another legal department leader with a hand in the media and entertainment businesses – Lawrence Tu of CBS Corporation. Tu got paid a cool $5m (£3.7m) in total cash last year. The son of Chinese immigrants, Tu has held other high-profile legal jobs, including as general counsel of CBS rival NBCUniversal Media and as GC of Dell. He was also a partner at O’Melveny & Myers and managed the firm’s Hong Kong office.

6. Bruce Campbell

Discovery Communications paid Bruce Campbell $4.3m (£3.2m) to lead the company’s legal department last year. But Campbell does a lot more than just head up legal for Discovery. He also oversees corporate development, including strategic planning and M&A, in addition to leading distribution, business affairs, production management and Discovery’s education division. It sounds like a lot of work – but at least he gets paid well to do it.

7. Michael Luttig

Michael Luttig, who heads the legal department at The Boeing Company, used to be a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. It’s pretty safe to say he is making more money now than he did back then. Luttig racked up $4.2m (£3.1m) in cash compensation last year, making him the seventh highest paid GC in our survey.

8. Alan Crain

The oil and the money are both flowing for Alan Crain of Baker Hughes, the GE-owned oil field services behemoth. Crain brought in $3.7m (£2.8m) in total cash compensation last year. His job as the company’s chief legal and governance officer is not his first in-house energy job. He has worked for Pennzoil and Union Texas Petroleum, according to his LinkedIn profile.

9. Michael Sharp

Leucadia National Corporation might not be a household name, but the conglomerate that the New York Times once likened to a “baby Berkshire Hathaway” pays its legal chief very well. Michael Sharp made $3.5m (£2.6m) last year in total cash compensation.

10. Jonathan Graham

Last but certainly not least (compensated) is Jonathan Graham of Amgen, who made $3.1m (£2.3m) in total cash for his work at the biotech company last year. Graham joined the company in 2015 after leaving the Danaher Corporation. He previously worked as head of in-house litigation at GE and as a partner at US law firm Williams & Connolly.