Reading two news articles almost always gets a person closer to the truth than just reading one.
Here's how Brett Philbin and Aaron Lucchetti of the Wall Street Journal handle a news article that appears under the headline "Jefferies CEO Is King of Pay/A $45.2 million package for Handler tops Wall Street chiefs Blankfein, Dimon":
The king of Wall Street pay doesn't reside at any of the household-name financial firms but at a midsize investment bank that likes to keep a low profile.
Jefferies Group handed Chairman and Chief Executive Richard Handler a $45.2 million payday, making him the best-paid financial-company leader for the second time in three years.
Mr. Handler got $1 million in salary, a $5 million cash bonus and $39 million in restricted stock awarded over three years, plus other compensation, the New York company said in a securities filing Tuesday.
Here's how William Alden handled it in the New York Times, under the headline "Chief of the Jefferies Group Earned $19 million in 2012":
The head of the Jefferies Group was one of the better-paid chief executives on Wall Street in 2012, as the firm put a difficult period behind it.
Richard B. Handler, the chief executive of Jefferies, earned a total of $19 million for 2012, the firm said in a filing on Tuesday. That included a $5 million cash bonus and a $13 million long-term equity incentive award, on top of a $1 million base salary.
In addition, Mr. Handler was granted the opportunity to earn $39 million in restricted stock over 2013, 2014 and 2015 if he meets certain targets. That incentive pay would be in addition to salary and bonus payments. Under pay disclosure rules adopted by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the $39 million was reported as part of his 2012 pay.
The Journal's article uses the headline number of $45.2 million and declares Mr. Handler "The king of Wall Street pay," while the Times article uses the headline number of $19 million and uses the more moderate phrasing that declares Mr. Handler "one of the better-paid chief executives on Wall Street."
The Journal approach may be more attention grabbing, but in this instance, it seems to me that the Times approach is more accurate. For one thing, there's probably some hedge fund or private equity guy on Wall Street (broadly defined) who made more than either $45.2 million or $19 million last year. So it's not strictly accurate to call Mr. Handler "the king of Wall Street pay." For another thing, the Journal's approach of comparing Mr. Handler to Mr. Blankfein and Mr. Dimon (whose firms, Goldman Sachs and JPMorganChase, took TARP money when Jefferies did not) but not to hedge fund or private equity guys is a framing game. Finally, if the Times is correct that he only gets the $39 million in restricted stock if he meets certain targets as far out as 2014 and 2015, it seems weird to count that as money he earned in 2012, no matter what the SEC says.
One other point. The Journal article includes a reference to "Mr. Handler, who routinely shies away from media interviews." It's hard to read this as anything other than code for "The Journal reporters are annoyed this guy won't give them an interview" or "The Journal reporters are trying to make excuses to their editor for why this guy won't give him an interview." In fact Mr. Handler gave an interview to Bloomberg News on November 15, 2011, again to Bloomberg News on November 7, 2011, and another interview two years ago to HereIsTheCity.com. He gave the Journal an interview in 2010. At least the Journal didn't describe him as "reclusive," which is another way the paper sometimes describes people who don't drop everything and race to the telephone when one of its reporters is on the line.
Disclosure: I own some shares of Leucadia National Corporation, which owns some of Jefferies and is buying the rest in a deal under which Mr. Handler will take over as CEO of Leucadia. I hope he keeps making lots of money both for himself and for his shareholders.