For PPL execs, a lower bar, bigger reward

From the Morning Call:

With the economy in a free fall and electric demand down in early 2009, PPL CEO James Miller started unloading people.

The Allentown energy company eliminated about 200 jobs that year, cutting its work force by 6 percent to lower overhead that would have been a drain on earnings. And at the end of it all, Miller was rewarded handsomely.

He received $7.7 million in cash and equity in 2009, making him the second-highest paid executive in the Lehigh Valley, according to a Morning Call analysis of executive pay at local publicly traded companies. That was 37 percent more than he received in 2008, even though the company's overall revenues and earnings had dropped.

To many workers, the concept may seem cold and even cruel. If the company is doing so poorly that it has to cut jobs, how can it so richly reward its top executive?

But it highlights the often complex manner in which CEOs are paid, a common subject of political debate that underscores disparities in wealth distribution. And it demonstrates how sometimes when companies upend lives by slashing jobs, they simultaneously cut their CEOs some slack.

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