Top defense industry bosses are earning more than their counterparts in banking, and their pay probably won’t slide even if the U.S. trims military spending.
Chief executives of the top five U.S. military contractors were paid a total of $107 million last year, 43 percent more than the heads of the five biggest U.S. banks, who made $75 million. That’s a reversal from 2007, when the defense executives received $97 million, 41 percent less than the $163 million that went to the top banking chief executives.
Although some politicians may question compensation at the top weapons makers amid attempts to reduce the nation’s deficit, pay probably won’t plunge like it did at banks following the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent bailout of financial firms, said Pete Smith, a Washington-based compensation consultant.
“I doubt that it would be anything like the hue and cry you had over Wall Street,’’ said Smith, president of Smith Compensation Consulting. “You’re going to see a flattening over the next year or two or three of compensation for defense contractors if things go the way everybody expects them to go.’’
Northrop Grumman’s chief executive, Wes Bush, led the defense CEOs with $26.2 million in pay last year. Jamie Dimon, chairman and chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, made $23.1 million, making him the highest paid banking CEO. The figures come from company filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
National security and domestic programs face $1.2 trillion in across-the-board reductions over a decade if Congress and the White House don’t reach a deficit-reduction agreement. The Pentagon cuts in the year beginning Oct. 1 would be about $55 billion, or 10 percent of spending, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said last week.
In 2009, the chief executives of the top five U.S. banks were paid $7.9 million, 95 percent less than what they made in 2007, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Vikram Pandit, chief executive of Citigroup, was paid $128,751 in 2009 and a token salary of $1 in 2010 after making $38.2 million in 2008.
The five biggest U.S. banks by market capitalization are JPMorgan, Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs Group and Morgan Stanley.
The top five U.S. defense contractors are Lockheed, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman.
The banks’ chiefs made $75.2 million last year, less than half the $163 million they earned in 2007. Lloyd Blankfein, chief of Goldman Sachs, led the group that year with $54 million in pay.
Compensation for the defense chief executives rose 11 percent to $107 million last year from $97 million in 2007. Pentagon spending on contracts in the period rose 12 percent to $373 billion from $334 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The defense CEOs’ pay probably won’t decline sharply because the contractors have continued to generate investor returns amid concerns about automatic budget cuts, said Paul Dorf, managing director of Compensation Resources, based in Upper Saddle River, N.J.
A Bloomberg index of weapons manufacturers that includes the top five contractors gained 17 percent in the past year, beating the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index by less than a percentage point.
The defense companies’ shareholders are “making no noise’’ about the level of executive compensation, Dorf said. “They don’t want to rock the boat.’’
The biggest banks last month reported the worst start to a year since 2008 because of low interest rates and a drop in trading and deal-making driven by concerns about European government finances and slowing growth in the United States and China.