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Top CEO collected $702 mln in 2008: US survey

The highest-paid US chief executive collected 702.4 million dollars in compensation in 2008 as the recession deepened, a report by a shareholder rights organization showed Thursday.

"The highest-paid US chief executive was Stephen Schwarzman, CEO of investment firm Blackstone Group, pictured here in 2007. Schwarzman received 699.7 million dollars in shares vested after the company's public offering, according to the report by the Corporate Library."

The top honor went to Stephen Schwarzman, CEO of investment firm Blackstone Group, who received 699.7 million dollars in shares vested after the company's public offering, according to the report by the Corporate Library.

Schwarzman's stock holdings are subject to "a performance-based clawback provision," which means he might have to give back some of that, and at least 25 percent of the shares must be retained, according to the report on the top 10 CEO compensation packages.

But the Corporate Library, which monitors corporate governance on behalf of shareholders, said Schwarzman's entire compensation package "was decided not by a compensation committee but by Mr. Schwarzman himself."

Second on the list for 2008 was business software giant Oracle Corp. founder and CEO Lawrence Ellison, collecting a total of 556.9 million dollars including stock options exercised for 543 million dollars.

Occidental Petroleum CEO Ray Irani ranked third with total compensation of 222.6 million dollars, of which 184 million came from exercising stock options, according to the report.

The report noted that the high levels of compensation for the top-earning CEOs came even as their share prices fell sharply, going against the principle of performance-based pay.

Energy companies dominated the rest of the top 10.

Fourth on the list was Hess Corporation CEO John Hess (159.6 million dollars), followed by Ultra Petroleum Corp.'s Michael Watford (116.9 million), Chesapeake Energy's Aubrey McClendon (114.3 million); XTO Energy's Bob Simpson (103.5 million), EOG Resources CEO Mark Papa (90.5 million) and Nabors Industries's Eugene Isenberg (79.3 million).

Rounding out the top 10 was retailer Abercrombie & Fitch Co. CEO Michael Jeffries, with a total package worth 71.8 million dollars.

The report comes with Congress and the White House increasingly scrutinizing CEO pay.

The US House of Representatives last month passed legislation aimed at curbing Wall Street pay packages, amid deep public outrage over lavish compensation at firms bailed out by the US government.

The House measure, dubbed "Say-On-Pay," gives shareholders the right to cast annual non-binding votes on top executives' pay and give government regulators the ability to curb some forms of compensation they see as harmful.

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