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Disney Cuts Top Lawyer’s Pay, Names New Compliance Chief

Jan. 21, 2021, 12:46 AM

The Walt Disney Co. trimmed its longtime general counsel’s pay package by roughly 34% last year as the media giant made cutbacks as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Disney, which this month elevated global deputy chief compliance counsel Alicia Schwarz to senior vice president and chief compliance officer, disclosed the total compensation of its top six executives in an annual proxy statement filed this week.

Those individuals include senior executive vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary Alan Braverman, whose total pay last year dropped to $9.2 million, including nearly $1.6 million in cash and almost $6.9 million in stock awards. Braverman earned more than $13.7 million from Disney in 2019.

Despite the dip in total compensation, Braverman sold off a sizeable amount of Disney stock last year—nearly $22.9 million worth of his holdings in the company, according to securities filings. Bloomberg data shows that Braverman currently owns almost $19.1 million in Disney stock.

Braverman and other executives in Disney’s C-suite agreed to take 30% cuts to their base salaries in 2020 as Covid-19 roiled the global economy. Braverman, who is perennially one of the highest-paid law department leaders in the U.S., and those top Disney executives received no bonuses last year.

In September, Disney announced it would lay off 28,000 workers as the company sought to offset shrinking revenues from shuttered movie theaters and a resorts business struggling with fewer visitors.

Disney is now led by Chief Executive Officer Robert Chapek, who took over last year from Robert Iger, a longtime leader of the Burbank, Calif.-based entertainment titan. Disney’s most recent proxy states that Braverman is now in the final year of his employment agreement, which is set to expire Dec. 31, 2021.

Braverman didn’t respond to a request for comment about his potential post-Disney plans, succession planning for the legal chief position, or promotion of Schwarz to compliance chief.

Schwarz, who co-chairs the Disney Lawyers of Color affinity group, disclosed on her LinkedIn profile this month her new role and touted several job openings on her legal and compliance team at the company in Burbank, London, and Washington. Schwarz didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Disney hired Schwarz as a principal counsel in 2014 from Hughes Hubbard & Reed in Washington, where she spent five years as an associate handling anti-corruption, corporate compliance, international trade, and internal investigations work. She was promoted to assistant general counsel in 2018.

Jacob “Jack” Yellin, a veteran in-house lawyer at Disney who has served as a senior vice president, associate general counsel, and compliance chief since 2011, didn’t respond to a request for comment about his status with the company. Disney media representatives didn’t respond to requests for comment about the change in the compliance chief role or Braverman’s future employment status.

Candy Lawson, a former London-based group chief compliance officer at Disney, left the company last year to become compliance chief and senior deputy general counsel at Comcast Corp. Lawson joined Disney in 2019 as part of its $71 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox Inc.’s entertainment assets.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com

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