Cracking The Code On Executive Pay

So you're outraged - along with President Obama - over the eye-popping pay packages some American executives cart home. But just how much an individual executive gets is sometimes hard to decipher. Experts tend to come up with different totals for all the pieces: salary, perks, bonuses, stock options. Now outrage is turning into action. The huge payouts are prompting shareholders to demand reform. With annual-meeting season approaching, shareholders have already submitted hundreds of proposals to overhaul their companies' compensation practices, according to RiskMetrics Group, a proxy advisory firm. You can size up the compensation numbers yourself for any top executive of an American public company - with a little detective work. The Securities and Exchange Commission requires companies to explain their compensation practices in filings such as theannual report, also known as the 10-K. However, if you're a shareholder trying to find out what your chief executive was paid last year, the best place to turn is your company's annual proxy statement.

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