CEO compensation has been a sensitive subject for as long asthere have been CEOs. It's especially sensitive for credit unionCEOs because they work for unpaid volunteer boards. Human naturebeing what it is, people love to find out exactly what someone elseis making. One of the most popular weekly issues of Parade Magazineis the one that gives the specific salaries of a wide spectrum ofworkers from auto mechanics ($36,890) to rock stars ($7 million).Even Madison Magazine, published monthly in Wisconsin's statecapitol, does a yearly rundown of who makes what from the mayor($96,258) to the head zookeeper ($35,922). For those interested,besides waiting for publication of individual-specific pay dataonce a year, there are other ways to find out who is making what.For instance, if anyone wants to know what the CEOs of variouscredit union organizations make, they need only take a look at areadily accessible document known as an IRS 990. Among theinformation included in them is the compensation of the CEO and acertain number of other “highly compensated individuals” who workthere. Want to know what Dan Mica, Fred Becker, Fred Johnson, et alearn? Have at it. It is all there in the 990s filed by CUNA, NAFCU,and CUES. It is easy to see why 990s have caught the attention ofthe anti-credit union banking industry lobbyists. They want creditunions to file 990s. They feel they could embarrass credit unionsby showing just how much money credit union CEOs take home eachweek. At one time all FCUs did have to file 990s. Usually, that wasdone on a group basis by the appropriate state or federalregulator. More than a dozen years ago, IRS said in effect don'tbother since the same information and more is required as part ofbeing regulated by a separate regulator. Unlike credit unions,trade groups have no such regulator to keep tabs of them so the IRSdoes it directly via the 990s. Then consider the fact that thenumber of underpaid credit union CEOs is still considerable innumber. Refer back to the statement above “because they work forvolunteer boards.” The bankers are right in one sense. There willbe some embarrassment when certain CU CEO salaries are revealed.However, the embarrassment will be because they are still so muchlower than comparable banking and CU industry CEOs. There areexceptions of course, like in Oregon where state-chartered CUs mustfile 990s. I have no doubt that Portland Teachers Credit Union CEOCliff Dias is not thrilled that his $1.6 million compensationpackage is creating headlines and being given as a reason in asupposedly objective news story in the Eugene (OR) Register-Guardas the reason the largest merger in credit union history didn'thappen. But he's not embarrassed by any means, nor should he be.The reporter referred to Dias' pay as “lavish,” “eye-opening,” and“stunning.” He also said this: “Yet whether Dias' pay package wasexcessive is unclear.” Unclear to whom? Certainly not to the boardof directors of Portland Teachers Credit Union. They set the CEO'spay so they must not consider it lavish, or eye opening, orstunning. The reporter concluded that it was the reluctance andeventual refusal of the boards of the potential merger partners todisclose the compensation packages of their CEOs that led toscuttling the merger. There is no proof of that, but plenty ofexamples of very real operational issues that represented theactual reason(s) the credit union potential marriage partners foundthemselves too far apart to consummate the union. In case readersthink I am picking on a reporter trying to do his job, he lost mein the credibility department when he (the reporter) said; “Sometop credit union executives are earning fat compensation packagesas their organizations morph from casual, small-time nonprofitsinto growing growth-hungry powerhouses.” This sounds more likesomething a banking industry PR flack would say rather than aso-called unbiased daily newspaper reporter. Does the word “morph”sound familiar? Unfortunately, too many people still believe inthat old adage: “I saw it in the paper so it must be true.” Anotherpoint needs to be made when evaluating a credit union CEO's totalcompensation. Is it based on achieving predetermined goals agreedon by both the CEO and his or her board of directors? Are themembers' interests put first rather than sacrificed so that the CEOcan be accommodated? Service is great. Products and services aretop notch. Loan rates are lower than average. Dividend rates arehigher than average. And the CEO is rewarded for making it happen.Sounds fair to me! Cliff Dias wasn't always paid $1.6 million insalary and performance bonuses. It took him and the board a numberof years to get everything in sync to create a credit union thatwas financially stronger and better for members before it couldbecome better for Dias as well. Which leads to a rather obviousconclusion: no credit union CEO ever should be defensive orapologetic for his or her compensation. CEO compensation isstrictly a board decision (not a member's, banker's, or the media'sdecision) that is based on the overall value the CEO brings to thecredit union and the members it serves. Although there are a numberof CU compensation surveys available, all have the same weakness.They tell what is being paid not what should be paid. Only theindividual credit union board can make that determination. Finally,as far as the members right to know about the CU CEO's pay,certainly it is their credit union and they should know what makestheir credit union tick. But what possible good could come frommembers, most of who don't have a clue what is involved in managinga financial institution, having this information? Idle curiosity ishardly a valid reason.

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