The rule, Section 953 of the Dodd Frank Act, will dictate whether companies are given free rein or a narrow set of metrics to use in evaluating a company's performance. It should also clarify how companies calculate pay, either as a sum indicated in a proxy's summary compensation table, or possibly as realized or realizable pay.
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"Every company does it differently," said Steve Seelig, executive compensation counsel at Towers Watson. "That is why required disclosure is going to be important.
Eighty-five percent of large-cap companies calculate pay by adding up the numbers in a summary compensation table, Seelig said. These numbers might include salary, cash bonuses, option grants, stock grants, restricted stock units, the change in the value of a pension and perquisites. What is important here is that the value of the stock and option grants are recorded as the value they are on the date of the grant. This calculation does not include any possible appreciation or depreciation of the options or grants.
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Pay experts speculate the SEC staff may recommend companies calculate pay on a realized basis, which mirrors what a person might have on their W-2. This would include salary, cash bonuses and the value of options exercised in a certain year, and the value of any shares that vested that year.