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Is your fund manager overpaid?

Rocked by a widespread trading abuse scandal, the mutual fund industry is talking about paying restitution to shareholders. And the super-sized pay packages of some mutual fund company executives, directors and fund managers could easily help cover the cost. — By CNBC’s Sharon Epperson
/ Source: CNBC

Several mutual fund companies embroiled in federal investigations and charged with allegations of fraud or impropriety have vowed to pay restitution to shareholders. The money will probably come from the corporations, but the super-sized pay packages of some fund company executives, directors and fund managers could certainly help cover that expense.

Putnam Investments ousted CEO Lawrence Lasser has not been accused of any wrongdoing. But investors may still question the level of compensation that he received for leading a company that has been charged with securities fraud for apparently doing little to stop market timers among its own fund managers.

In the last five years, Lasser has received salary, bonuses, stock options, restricted shares and retirement pay packages worth $163 million. And, with his total severance package, that final pay out could be much higher.

“He will have rights to various restricted stock, stock options, special retirement benefits and other special awards that were given to him in a better time based on better performance, but which now don’t perhaps reflect where they’ve ended up,” said Brian Foley, a compensation lawyer based in White Plains, N.Y.

Lasser’s pay package dwarfs that of some other CEOs whose fund companies are under scrutiny. Still, investors may be interested to know exactly what those at the helm of these embattled fund companies are being paid.

At Federated Investors, company chairman John Donahue made almost $2.8 million last year. His son, Christopher, who is president and CEO, made nearly $2 million. And neither of them exercised stock options that year.

Alliance Capital, a subsidiary of AXA Financial, has less than half as much in assets under management as Federated. Yet Alliance CEO Lewis Sanders was paid more than twice as much as Federated CEO Chris Donahue last year. Sanders, who is also a vice chairman of the board, was paid over $4.5 million. He was paid more than Alliance chairman Bruce Calvert, who was paid $3.2 million.

InsertArt(2061368)But that was less than a key fund manager; James Reilly who runs Alliance’s Large Cap Growth Fund, was paid $5.6 million and exercised nearly $1.4 million in stock options last year.

So who oversees fund executive’s pay? Fund company directors — who may also be executives at the firm — have some oversight. But mutual funds also have their own board of directors that also has an obligation to shareholders.

“It also has an obligation as part of that to make sure that the management company is a stable, well-managed place,” said Meyrick Payne, CEO of Management Practice Inc., a management consulting firm in Stamford, Conn. “And insuring that portfolio managers and highly compensated people are adequately compensated is part of their job.”

In the end, someone must approve these pay packages, so it is important to hold those people accountable as well.

How can you find out this information on CEO pay? For privately-held companies like Strong Investments, it’s not easy to find out executive’s compensation. But you can take a look at CEO pay at some publicly-traded fund companies. That information is available in the company’s proxy statement or on the SEC’s Web site.