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Cheesecake Factory Legal Boss’s Pay Fell During Pandemic Losses

April 16, 2021, 6:12 PM

Cheesecake Factory Inc.’s top lawyer Scarlett May made over $1.11 million last year in total compensation, down from her pay in 2019, as the pandemic dampened the restaurant chain’s revenues.

May earned a base salary of $464,961 last year along with $374,693 in restricted stock awards, according to a proxy statement filed Thursday. Her compensation was $1.33 million in 2019, a year after she joined the Calabasas, Calif.-based company as executive vice president, general counsel and secretary.

The company’s five highest-paid executives, including May, took a 20% cut to their base salaries from April 1 to Sept. 14 last year in “response to the impacts of COVID-19 on our business,” the proxy said. Executives later received special bonuses, including $33,150 for May, rewarding “extraordinary efforts” during the pandemic, the filing said.

National restaurant industry sales missed estimates by about $240 billion last year as the pandemic shuttered indoor dining, according to the National Restaurant Association. The Cheesecake Factory reported net losses of over $253 millionfor the year, compared to a profit of $128 million the year before.

Besides May, all other named executive officers also saw lower overall total compensation for 2020. The Cheesecake Factory’s chairman and CEO David Overton earned $5.91 million, compared to $6.72 million in 2019, and the company’s president, David Gordon, earned $1.87 million, down from $2.24 million.

May’s decrease was primarily due to less earned under the company’s Performance Incentive Plan, which was reworked with new goals specific to the pandemic. In 2019, she received $317,000 under the plan, compared with $82,875 in 2020. The company’s other executives similarly saw the largest dips in compensation in this category.

The Cheesecake Factory, which operates nearly 300 stores in North America under various brands, faced charges from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission last year over “materially false and misleading” statements about its finances. The SEC alleged that the company failed to disclose to investors and lenders that it was losing around $6 million in cash every week in March and April.

The charges were settled in early December with a fine of $125,000, though the Cheesecake Factory didn’t admit the findings.

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

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com
John Hughes in Washington at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com

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