How we compiled our list of Washington area executive compensation data

June 19, 2011

To examine chief executive pay at nearly 100 of the largest public companies in the District of Columbia, Northern Virginia and Maryland region, Capital Business asked Equilar, an executive compensation data firm, to analyze pay data from corporate filings.

Equilar compiled total annual compensation figures for the chief executives serving as of the close of the most recent completed fiscal year ended on or after March 31, 2010. For each chief executive studied, total annual compensation includes base salary, cash bonus payouts, the grant-date value of stock and option awards, and other compensation. Other compensation typically includes benefits and perquisites.

At some companies, the leadership may have changed since our cutoff point, but we chose to report the compensation of the executive in place at the time to provide our best possible apples-to-apples comparison.

Similarly, some companies have announced deals to go private, change names or be bought since the close of their fiscal year. We opted to include them, noting their current status.

For each company, all components of compensation were collected directly from the Summary Compensation Table of the proxy statement.

Grant-date values for equity awards represent the estimated value of new service-based and performance-based stock and option awards. Although companies disclose these values, there is no guarantee that an executive will actually realize the amounts shown. An executive may earn more or less depending on stock price movements and the achievement of vesting requirements or performance goals.

Furthermore, Equilar’s analysis reports equity awards in the fiscal year they were granted. Sometimes these awards are paid out over several years and have conditions attached, which could affect how much an executive ultimately collects. Also, in some cases, companies grant equity awards at the beginning of each fiscal year based on performance in the prior fiscal year. As a result, equity awards granted in a fiscal year should not necessarily be viewed as indicative of corporate performance in the same year.

Finally, we shared the results of our survey with companies before publication so they could respond to any inaccuracies.

Dan Beyers is the founding editor of Capital Business, The Washington Post’s go-to source for news about the region’s business community.
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