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* Former Merrill, NYSE CEO retired $22 bln of high-yield debt
* CIT's president and chief financial officer took pay cuts
* Company shares up 18 percent in 2012 after 2011 fall
April 5 (Reuters) - CIT Group Inc, the small-business lender that has been recovering from a 2009 bankruptcy, gave its chairman and chief executive John Thain a 23 percent rise in pay to $8.2 million in 2011, the company said on Thursday.
Thain, the former chief executive of Merrill Lynch and NYSE Euronext, was given a bonus incentive of $1.9 million in cash - 125 percent of his target - for exceeding many of his performance goals, the New York-based company's compensation committee wrote in CIT's 2012 proxy filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
CIT's 2011 net income fell to $28 million, or 14 cents a share, from $526 million, or $2.62 a share, in 2010, largely because of reduced benefits related to earlier bankruptcy accounting. But Thain exceeded his goals in reducing or retiring the company's high-cost debt, building its lending and leasing assets and maintaining strong capital ratios and liquidity, CIT's compensation committee said.
CIT, which lends to companies that generally do not qualify for traditional bank loans, emerged from bankruptcy in late 2009 and continues to operate under a regulatory agreement that put many of its management decisions and capital strategies under the supervision of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Thain met goals related to resolution of many of the issues in the regulatory agreement, the filing said.
Thain, who joined CIT in early 2010 and who also had been president of Goldman Sachs Group, received $5.8 million in stock awards, the cash bonus of $1.9 million and a salary of $500,000 for 2011. He was paid $6.7 million, primarily in stock awards, in 2010.
The only other senior executive over the past two years whose compensation rose in 2011 was Jeffrey Knittel, president of the company's transportation division. His total pay package jumped 73 percent from 2010 to $4.8 million.
President Nelson Chai's compensation fell 40 percent to $1.7 million. Chai worked with Thain at both Merrill Lynch and the New York Stock Exchange.
Scott Parker, CIT's chief financial officer, was paid $1.7 million last year, down 42 percent from $2.96 million in 2010.
Shares of CIT, up about 18 percent this year after falling 26 percent in 2011, closed 0.6 percent lower at $40.83 in trading Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange.