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ETF News

American Express CEO gets $17 mln in 2009 pay, bonus

* Chenault’s pay includes more than $10 million cash

* Pay tops Goldman’s Blankfein, JPMorgan’s Dimon

* Compensation is down from $28.8 mln in 2008

NEW YORK, March 16 (Reuters) - American Express Co AXP.N Chief Executive Kenneth Chenault made $17.4 million in 2009, as the nation's largest credit-card issuer rebounded from the financial crisis, according to a regulatory filing on Tuesday.

Excessive pay by financial firms emerged as a hot-button topic after U.S. taxpayers committed hundreds of billions of dollars to rescue the banking industry during the financial crisis. The bailout kept the industry afloat, but was a source of public anger -- especially after firms returned to paying executives top-dollar salaries soon after repaying taxpayers.

Chenault's $17.4 million payout is nearly double what Goldman Sachs Group Inc GS.N CEO Lloyd Blankfein made in 2009, and roughly on par with that of JPMorgan Chase & Co JPM.N CEO Jamie Dimon.

But unlike his executive peers, Chenault received a $5.1 million cash bonus in 2009 and additional $5.33 million cash payments stemming from American Express’ incentive compensation plan. Neither Blankfein nor Dimon received cash bonuses in 2009 as firms trended toward long-term, equity-based compensation designed to reduce short-term risk-taking after the financial troubles.

An American Express spokeswoman declined to comment.

CORPORATE JET

American Express repaid a $3.4 billion bailout it received as part of the largest taxpayer rescue of the financial system in June. The company reported higher quarterly earnings for the fourth quarter, beating forecasts, helped by rising consumer spending and lower credit costs.

American Express shares closed on Monday at $40.70, nearly four times where they were trading a year ago.

Chenault’s pay decreased from $28.8 million in 2008 and $33.9 million in 2007, according to the regulatory filing.

American Express dramatically scaled back Chenault’s stock- based compensation in 2009, giving him no stock awards and about $4 million in options. In 2008, he was paid no cash bonus, but he received $9.5 million in stock awards and $9.8 million in option awards, according to the regulatory filing.

He also received $660,272 in perks and other benefits in 2009, including $401,527 for personal use of the company’s aircraft, in 2009. The company noted that beginning in 2010 Chenault will pay for personal use of the company aircraft in excess of $200,000.

In January, American Express said Chenault’s base pay would increase to $2 million in 2010, up from $1.2 million in 2009. The company said in the filing that it would put more emphasis on fixed compensation going forward. (Reporting by Steve Eder, editing by Maureen Bavdek)

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