NEW YORK — Some of the nation's biggest financial firms have increased the perks and benefits they pay their chief executives, despite the glaring spotlight from a public fed up with handsome bonuses at bailed-out Wall Street banks.
The lavish fringe benefits included country club dues, chauffeured drivers, personal financial planning services, home security systems, parking and corporate aircraft for personal travel.
J.P. Morgan Chase awarded its chairman and chief executive, Jamie Dimon, $91,000 in personal travel on the company jet in 2009, up from about $54,000 the previous year. His total perks increased 19 percent, to $266,000. Dimon, along with Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Blankfein and Capital One chief executive Richard Fairbank, also received sharply higher perks related to personal and home security.
"Many people would think the solution would be not to be so provocative of unrest and unhappiness, but no, they're saying, 'Go ahead and do that, just build bigger walls around your house,' " said Nell Minow, co-founder of the Corporate Library, which found in recent studies of several thousand U.S. companies that more chief executives received club memberships than a year earlier, and companies paid more to cover executives' personal use of corporate planes.
A review of the 29 largest publicly traded financial companies that received federal aid found that nearly one in three increased fringe benefits for their chief executives.
They also occurred as 20 of the firms cut perks last year, after an increase in 2008, according to figures in corporate securities filings provided by Equilar, a compensation data services firm.
Last year, executives at the firms surveyed received perks and benefits worth more than $140,000 on average, compared with $380,000 in 2008. Individually, chief executives at nine of the banks received total fringe benefits worth more than the previous year. All of the banks were operating with taxpayer funding for at least part of last year, although 14 had returned the money by year's end.
The overall decline took place in part because of strict limits on perks imposed by the Obama administration for 2009 at companies receiving the most assistance. For example, at Ally Financial, formerly known as GMAC Financial Services, chief executive Michael Carpenter received perks worth just $35, compared with the $4.8 million awarded to his predecessor in 2008.