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Paramount Sees Three Top Lawyers’ Pay Slip Amid Stock Dip (1)

April 18, 2022, 7:48 PMUpdated: April 18, 2022, 10:29 PM

Paramount Global saw the pay of its three top lawyers fall last year as the company ramped up spending on streaming services and its stock price plunged 19%.

General counsel Christa D’Alimonte received nearly $3.3 million in total compensation in 2021, down 45% from the almost $6 million she received the prior year, according to a proxy statement filed April 15 by New York-based Paramount.

D’Alimonte and two other lawyers—Paramount head of global public policy and government relations Doretha “DeDe” Lea and chief people officer Nancy Phillips—collectively earned more than $7 million last year. The payments are down from the roughly $12.7 million in total compensation that all three lawyers received in 2020.

The reductions come after Paramount, which changed its name in mid-February from ViacomCBS Inc., reported fourth quarter earnings that missed Wall Street estimates by a wide margin, Bloomberg News reported. Analysts were concerned about how much the company was being forced to spend on Paramount+ in order to lure customers to its new paid streaming service.

The company’s chief executive officer, Robert Bakish, saw his year-over-year total compensation fall to $20 million in 2021 from more than $38.9 million in 2020. Bakish didn’t receive a cash bonus or any new stock awards last year, nor did D’Alimonte, Lea, or Phillips.

The company declined to discuss its executive compensation.

Paramount’s proxy noted that its management team, aside from chief financial officer Naveen Chopra, had their 2021 stock awards pulled into 2020, which affected their compensation in the most recent year.

Even as Paramount saw the pay of its senior executives decrease last year, the company disclosed in an April 15 securities filing that it extended the contracts of Lea and Phillips through December 2025 and June 2025, respectively. Paramount earlier this year extended the contract of D’Alimonte through June 2025.

All three lawyers will see an increase in their base salaries starting this year. D’Alimonte’s base salary goes to almost $1.4 million from nearly $1.3 million. Lea’s annual base salary grows to $1 million, up from $911,500, while Phillips will now receive $925,000, up from $787,500, the filing shows.

Post-Merger Changes

Paramount formed in late 2019 when legacy companies Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp. reunited after completing an $11.7 billion all-stock merger.

D’Alimonte, a former Shearman & Sterling partner who replaced Michael Fricklas as the top lawyer at Viacom, was tapped to serve as legal chief for ViacomCBS.

The combined company disclosed that it paid nearly $20 million to five lawyers in 2019: D’Alimonte, Phillips, general tax counsel Richard Jones, former CBS chief legal officer Lawrence Tu, and former CBS general counsel Laura Franco.

Tu left CBS in early 2019 and was succeeded by Franco, who herself departed in late 2020 to become the top lawyer at dating app provider Bumble Inc.

Jones, a former accountant and U.S. Army Ranger, serves as general tax counsel and chief veteran officer at Paramount. Securities filings show that Jones sold off nearly $14.2 million in company stock last year, while Lea divested herself of roughly $2 million in Paramount shares.

Jonathan Anschell, a former media division legal chief at ViacomCBS, also left what is now Paramount in late 2020 to take the top legal job at Mattel Inc. The El Segundo, Calif.-based toy maker disclosed in a proxy filed last week that Anschell received almost $3.9 million in total compensation last year.

Mattel paid Anschell more than $1.8 million in cash—in the form of $700,000 in base salary, a $200,000 bonus, and nearly $932,500 in non-equity incentive plan compensation—as well as almost $2 million in stock and option awards. Anschell left private practice in 2004 to become general counsel for CBS Broadcasting Inc.

The television network is one of many storied media companies facing stiff competition in a new media age.

Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc. raided what was then still called ViacomCBS last year for Henry Moniz, an attorney who was the media conglomerate’s chief compliance officer and audit executive. Moniz was recruited to be the social media giant’s first-ever chief ethics and compliance officer.

Linda Davidoff, a veteran in-house lawyer at Viacom, was promoted to replace Moniz as Paramount’s compliance chief.

High-Powered Boardroom

Paramount is also looking to turn the page on workplace sexual misconduct claims against Leslie Moonves, a longtime former top executive at CBS.

CBS investors asked a federal court last week to move forward with a nearly $14.8 million settlement to end a lawsuit in which shareholders claim they were misled about the company’s workplace culture before Moonves was ousted in 2018.

Shari Redstone, an attorney and daughter of late media titan and Harvard Law School graduate Sumner Redstone, is now chair of the board at Paramount.

The company’s other board members with legal ties include Robert Klieger, a Hueston Hennigan partner who has long represented the Redstone family in its efforts to retain control of its media empire, and former Sony Corp. general counsel Nicole Seligman.

Candace Beinecke, a senior partner at Hughes Hubbard & Reed, is also a member of the board at Paramount. Beinecke received roughly $337,000 in total compensation from the company last year, while Klieger and Seligman received $325,000 and $332,000, respectively. Paramount’s proxy listed Shari Redstone’s total compensation at more than $500,100.

(Adds information about lawyers for Paramount and legacy ViacomCBS after the eighth paragraph.)

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

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