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AT&T Legal Chief’s Total Compensation Nearly Doubled in 2020 (1)

March 12, 2021, 9:40 PMUpdated: March 12, 2021, 11:38 PM

AT&T Inc.’s top lawyer David McAtee made nearly double the compensation in 2020 he did the previous year, due to an equity award infusion.

McAtee made over $18.6 million in 2020 as the Dallas-based telecom giant’s general counsel and senior executive vice president, compared to $9.4 million in 2019, according to a Thursday SEC filing.

The increase comes from a “career retention grant” in the form of an additional $9 million in stock awards over what he received in 2019, on top of his base salary of $1.3 million. The grant does not vest until 2030.

McAtee declined to comment on his 2020 compensation package.

His compensation boost is the largest of any named executive for AT&T and one of the only increases last year at the company, though he was not the highest earner.

Jason Kilar, CEO of AT&T’s entertainment segment WarnerMedia, made over $52 million in total compensation in 2020, far out earning AT&T’s other named executives.

Like many other corporate leaders, AT&T CEO and president John Stankey and executive chairman Randall Stephenson each requested salary reductions for the second half of 2020 in light of “unprecedented uncertainty and global economic stress” due to Covid-19, according to the filing. The reductions brought their total annual compensation to $21 million and $29 million, respectively.

Airline executives were some of the first to temporarily forgo parts of their salaries when the pandemic began, with many other industries following suit. Multiple Walt Disney Co. executives took 20 to 50% pay cuts last summer, and executives at The Cheesecake Factory, Inc., and Marriott International, Inc., among many others, also forfeited some pay.

AT&T reported a net loss of $3.8 billion in its 2020 annual report, filed Feb. 25, which attributed some of the loss to less revenue from entertainment segments that were dampened by the pandemic. A Christmas Day bombing in Nashville, Tenn., also damaged an AT&T building and disrupted mobile service in four states.

AT&T’s WarnerMedia launched streaming platform HBO Max in May and reached over 60 million subscribers worldwide by the fourth quarter, driven in part by the platform’s release of Marvel Studios movie WonderWoman 1984.

McAtee succeeded AT&T’s former top lawyer D. Wayne Watts after Watts retired in 2015. He was a partner at Haynes and Boone, where he worked for over 16 years before joining AT&T in 2012.

(Updated with information about the stock award in paragraph three. )

To contact the reporter on this story: Ruiqi Chen in Washington, D.C. at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebekah Mintzer at; Chris Opfer at