If you had to chart all the major financial data points on the

Rhythms NetConnections

(RTHM)

annual report released Monday, you'd have a bunch of trend lines running down to the right -- at least until you got to executive compensation.

Job Well Done
Rhythms shares' sharp decline

It wasn't enough that Chairman and CEO Catherine Hapka made $812,000 last year (her base salary was $365,000, plus a $277,000 bonus and a $170,000 retention bonus). For 2001, she is getting a 10% raise on that base salary. That means that for a year in which her stock lost 96% of its value, Hapka got her biggest raise yet, far outshining the 3% and 4% boosts she got the last two years.

Not bad, since her digital subscriber line business showed a 2000 loss of $606 million, on sales of $46 million. The stock closed Monday at 31 cents, down 29% for the day, and appears likely to be delisted from the

Nasdaq

.

Rhythms hired bankers

Lazard Freres

to explore options, typically a prelude to restructuring and perhaps bankruptcy. Lucky for her, Hapka is guaranteed her base salary even if she is fired. The company declined to comment on personnel matters.

So Hapka's star may not be rising, but her paycheck certainly is.