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Recession Takes Toll On CEO Pay In 2008

MATTHEW FORDAHL

NEW YORK (AP) ¿ CEOs are taking a hit from the recession ¿ less total compensation, smaller bonuses, nearly worthless stock options ¿ but their companies are already making adjustments that could mean fatter paychecks in the future.

An Associated Press analysis shows the median pay package for CEOs of companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 7 percent to $7.6 million in 2008.

And the potential hit to their pocketbooks could be even larger if stock prices don't rebound. One clue: 90 percent of the $1.2 billion in CEO stock options granted last year are "under water," meaning the current stock price is too low to yield a profit, the AP analysis shows.

Boards already are trying to cushion the blow. The AP found that some have changed the rules to make it easier for executives to qualify for bonuses. Others are doling out more stock options, which give executives the right to buy shares in the future at prices locked in today.

Other findings in the AP's analysis:

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