American Express Lifts Chenault's Pay 19% to $22 Million for '16

Ken Chenault.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

American Express Co., the biggest credit-card issuer by customer spending, paid Chief Executive Officer Ken Chenault $22 million for his work in 2016, a 19 percent increase from a year earlier.

Chenault’s pay includes $16.8 million in stock tied to future performance, $3.2 million of options and a $2 million salary, the New York-based lender said Monday in its annual proxy filing. The company’s compensation committee decided to give Chenault, 65, more equity instead of a $6.63 million cash bonus that would have been paid immediately, according to the proxy.

At this time last year, AmEx slashed the CEO’s compensation by 26 percent after the firm’s stock and profit slumped in 2015, following the loss of a co-brand partnership with Costco Wholesale Corp. Chenault, who also serves as chairman, remains one of the highest-paid CEO’s in the U.S. financial industry. His compensation puts him on par with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. CEO Lloyd Blankfein, who also was paid $22 million for 2016.

American Express, which counts Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. as its biggest shareholder, climbed 6.5 percent in 2016 after tumbling 25 percent in the prior year. The stock has gained an additional 6.4 percent so far in 2017, closing Monday at $78.85 a share.

The compensation committee determined that AmEx “exceeded initial expectations and made significant progress” last year, according to the proxy. “The committee also recognized that additional work lies ahead to reset the company’s trajectory toward profitable growth and high returns.”

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