Executive pensions rose in '08 even as stocks fell: report

Financial Chief Executives wait to speak to the media at the White House after a meeting about the economy with President Barack Obama in the State Dining Room in Washington, March 27, 2009. REUTERS/Larry Downing

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Pensions for top U.S. executive rose by an average of 19 percent last year, and more than 200 officers saw their retirement savings surge by as much as 50 percent, even as their companies stock prices fell, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

Pensions rose as a result of generous formulas and some little-scrutinized techniques, such as changes in age or interest rates used in calculations, the paper said, citing an analysis of filings from 340 Standard & Poor’s 500 companies.

And with the public outraged over lavish pay and big bonuses, the Journal on its website said pensions rose even as stock prices dropped by an average of 37 percent last year. Yet supplemental executive retirement plans, or SERPs, are mostly overlooked.

The chief executive of Merck & Co saw his pension benefit rise by nearly $10 million to $21.7 million last year. Certain incentive payments for ConocoPhillips CEO Jim Mulva boosted bis pension by $9.5 million to $68.2 million, the paper said.

The top executives at General Electric saw the amounts they were due from pensions rise by 13 percent to $140.7 million, the Journal said.

Reporting by Joseph A. Giannone; Editing by Anshuman Daga