Pressured by a brokerage firm, the board of governors of the Financial Information Regulatory Authority (FINRA) will meet Wednesday (Feb. 10) to determine whether Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro and other former FINRA executives were overcompensated in 2008.
That was the year FINRA, the self-regulatory organization for the brokerage industry, posted an operating loss of $696 million. Thirteen current and former executives of FINRA – including former chief executive Shapiro – made more than $1 million each in total compensation.
Former chairman and CEO Schapiro received about $3.25 million in compensation. Of that amount, $937,961 was salary; bonus and incentive compensation came to $1.75 million and other pay totaled $565,995.
Schapiro, also received an additional payout of $7.2 million as part of an accumulated retirement plan benefits package. She now makes an annual salary of $162,900 at the helm of the SEC.
Legal experts say that it is unlikely that FINRA will ask executives to pay back the bonuses, a recovery practice sometimes referred to as a clawback. But the board could request an internal review of compensation practices.
Herb Perone, associate director of media relations for FINRA in Washington, D.C. declined to discuss the options FINRA’s board has or disclose when a decision will be made. In a press statement, Perone said “Consistent with established procedures, the FINRA board will review the allegations at its next regular meeting and determine the appropriate course of action at that time.”
The investigation into FINRA’s executive compensation follows a lawsuit filed by Moreno Valley, Calif-based Amerivet Securities, a brokerage firm specializing in providing services to disabled veterans, in August. Amerivet in its suit alleged that FINRA failed to properly regulate such prominent industry firms as Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers Holdings and Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities. The lawsuit didn’t seek any monetary damages, but access to FINRA documents so that Amerivet’s president Colonel Elton Johnson Jr. could determine what caused the regulator to suffer its own investment losses in 2008.
In a letter sent to FINRA on Dec 4, Johnson’s attorneys Richard Greenfield and Jonathan Cuneo also called FINRA’s 2008 compensation to senior executives “excessive” given the $568 million decline in FINRA’s investment portfolio during that year. The lawyers want FINRA to recoup the bonuses paid to its senior managers, including Schapiro that year.
But in his statement, Perone went on to say that Johnson’s attorneys are continuing a publicity campaign against FINRA and repeating earlier allegations without providing any new facts. On its website, www.amerivetsecurities.con, the brokerage firm is soliciting donations from other broker-dealers to resume business. It says that Amerivet “owes $50,000 to FINRA, which must be paid in full it we can resume full operations. The company has other debts that it cannot afford to pay at this time.”
Among amounts paid to other top paid former FINRA executives in 2008:
Douglas Schulman, now commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, was paid compensation, severance and accumulated benefits valued at $4.43 million in 2008 while vice chairman at FINRA;
Michael D. Jones, now chief operating officer of Public Broadcasting Service, pocketed $4.43 million in compensation, severance and accumulated benefits while he was chief administrative officer at FINRA.
Elisse Walter, who was in charge of FINRA’s regulatory policy and programs until July 2008 when she was appointed a member of the SEC, earned $3.8 million in compensation million in 2008. The $3.8 million included $2.4 million of supplemental retirement benefits.
John Nester, a spokesman for the SEC, declined comment. Representatives of the IRS and PBS did not return calls seeking comment.