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Pay Records

Maria Tucker ’10 asks:

Do you think the college could release a list of how much it pays employees? Do other schools do this? I know they probably wouldn’t want to, but I mean, we’re paying the bills–we should know.

1) Don’t kids today read EphBlog? The Form 990s we have collected reveal a great deal about the pay of very senior administrators and faculty. Check them out.

2) The sleaziest pay scandal at Williams involves Chief Investment Office Collete Chilton. Is there a Record reporter interested in this story? Call me. I give excellent quote.

3) Form 990 only lists the 5 highest paid employees, along with senior officers. So, we have very little data on what the vast majority of employees are paid. This is very different than at a state school with open records laws, like the University of California system.

4) We know lots about faculty compensation. Also, looking at the highest faculty salaries is always fun. Shout out to all our professor readers! ;-)

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#1 Comment By frank uible On September 7, 2009 @ 9:52 am

If one would ask one of his local merchants what it pays its employees, the probable response would be a diplomatic, or not so diplomatic, version of “go pound salt”. Why should a private college be different in this respect? Because the questioner is a pushy, arrogant SOB with a well developed sense of entitlement? “Go defecate in your headgear!”

#2 Comment By nuts On September 7, 2009 @ 10:32 am

The “sleaziest pay scandal at Williams” is that the Chief Investment Officer is paid a high salary and is eligible for a performance bonus. Some scandal, and if by “sleazy” you mean dishonorable, I don’t see it.

Will you be republishing this story in a revised form every 20 days?

#3 Comment By David On September 7, 2009 @ 7:40 pm

nuts:

1) How much would the CIO need to be paid for you to consider it a scandal? 1 million? 3 million? 50 million? Or is it, by definition, impossible for Williams to pay someone too much?

2) How widespread would bonuses have to be for you to consider it a scandal? (Note that Chilton and others in the investment office are eligible for a bonus. My guess is that two other employees.) Would it be a scandal if the football coach was paid a bonus for wins? If the professors would paid bonuses for publications? My position: It is a scandal for anyone at Williams to have a bonus written into their contract. Salary (along with the prospect of raises and promotions) is enough.

3) How do you know that there is not some other scandal here? You don’t. The College, I think, refuses to tell us any of the details of these bonuses. What is the benchmark? What is the time scale? What is the amount? Now, one might hope that the benchmark is fair and the amounts reasonable but you, along with the rest of us, have no information.

Do you just put your faith in the Trustees/Administration blindly? You are just the sort of person they want in the Williams community!

Have the last two years made you more or less trusting of the people who work in high finance?

Will you be republishing this story in a revised form every 20 days?

You betcha!

And just wait until some professors start asking questions at the next faculty meeting . . .

#4 Comment By nuts On September 7, 2009 @ 10:27 pm

How much would the CIO need to be paid for you to consider it a scandal?

What data do you have about compensation for CIO’s managing $1-2 billion? Data would be a basis for an argument about overcompensation.

How different is compensation for Hedge Fund managers and CIOs for college endowments (managing $1-2 Billion)? You’ll have to find the data.

#5 Comment By David On September 8, 2009 @ 10:26 am

nuts implies that I write about this topic too often and yet he does not know the answers to questions that we have already covered. He writes:

What data do you have about compensation for CIO’s managing $1-2 billion?

HWC, in comments to the post I linked to above, wrote:

The same year, Swarthmore paid Director of Investments, Mark Amstutz $205,428 in wages and benefits.

Pomona College’s Director of Investments didn’t make the list of the top-five highest paid employees. Number 5 was at $219,000, so his or her pay was no higher than Swarthmore’s or Williams.

Grinnell College, which had a bigger per student endowment than any of them, didn’t have an investment mananger make the list of top five that year with a cut-off of $192,000. They did have the Associate Treasurer make the list in the 2008 report at $183,000.

Chilton is paid significantly more than her peers. How many examples do we need to provide?

I also asked 5 Boston area finance professionals what they thought that market rate for Chilton’s position would be. None gave a number as high as her actual salary. (Range was $200,000 to $500,000.)

The CIO job at a non-profit endowment is radically different (picking managers) from the CIO job at a hedge fund (making alpha), so it is unsurprising that salaries would be different.

#6 Comment By rory On September 8, 2009 @ 10:45 am

a. wouldn’t 500k in salary be much more in “total compensation”? if so, wouldn’t that mean she was in the range your 5 anonymous professionals gave? In fact, her “compensation” in 2008 was 530k + benefits. Methinks you doth protest too much about exactly how out of whack it was.

b. isn’t anecdotal evidence obnoxious and not particularly compelling…especially for a stats person like you?

c. scandal and sleaze involves something morally improper or illegal. while chilton may be overpaid, calling it “sleazy” or even “sleaziest…scandal” is a gross exaggeration of what might rightly be called a “huge mistake” or “gross overpayment” or “wasteful expenditure” or countless other, more appropriate terms. Executive overpayment is a “sleazy” “scandal” when an exec takes a bonus while also being in charge of layoffs, a bankruptcy procedure, or something else directly opposed to signs of good leadership. Considering that williams looks to have ridden the financial crisis with relatively low amounts of blood-letting, i wouldn’t call it that. To do so makes someone (like me) who normally likes to berate the over-paid (what can i say, i’m an unrepentant liberal) defend them.

It’s a weird and unpleasant place for me to be, defending financial professionals’ salaries (which i generally find beyond ridiculous). but be honest about your case, else you risk alienating potential allies in your quest to get the college to be more efficient.

#7 Comment By David On September 8, 2009 @ 11:04 am

1) The Amherst 2008 Form 990 (which probably deserves a post of its own) reports that the Director of Investments Mauricia Geissler had a total compensation of $329,000. There is no reason why Chilton needs to be paid more than twice as much. (All of this discussion is in terms of total compensation.)

2) The sleaze factor is not only, or even primarily, Chilton’s total compensation. The main sleaze is the bonus, both that there is a bonus at all and that more than one (how many?) folks in the Investment Office are eligible. The potentially hidden sleaze is the benchmark that is used to calculate the bonus.

3) I am unaware of good survey data on the compensation for non-profit CIOs. Other than rock stars like David Swensen, I don’t know of anyone in a similar position who is paid as much as Chilton.

4) If you aren’t serious about reigning in the pay of financial professors at Williams, then I question the level of your committment to economic equality.

#8 Comment By rory On September 8, 2009 @ 11:12 am

David,

you misinterpret my attempt to help.

you post about a bonus that we know nothing about, but incorrectly describe Chilton’s total compensation.

your case is strong that the investment office is unnecessary, it is only weakened when it is unfocused (the compensation reporting re: your poston area pros is unintentionally confusing at best, purposefully obfuscating at worst), made in a way that alienates allies (again, i agree that money spent on this is absurd, yet you question my bonafides about “economic equality” just because i criticize your means of making the argument GTFOH), or overly dramatic (“sleazy! scandal!”).

plus, considering how badly Amherst did in the financial crisis, I’d happily pay twice as much as them for our advisors compared to theirs :P

#9 Comment By David On September 8, 2009 @ 11:20 am

1) I should have written “actual compensation” instead of “actual salary” in #5 above. Thanks to Rory for pointing out the mistake.

2) We know that more than one investment professional at Williams is eligible for a bonus. That is not “nothing” in my book. It is a scandal. Of course, I wish we knew more about the exact details: What are the terms of the bonus? Has one been paid? Who is eligible? And so on. I will write Jim Kolesar and ask. Who can guess the likely reply?

#10 Comment By David On September 8, 2009 @ 11:25 am

I just sent this e-mail to Jim Kolesar and cc’d Collette Chilton.

Jim,

Hope all is well. In the College’s letter to the Senate Finance Committee, we have this:

———————-
Some members of the Investment Office are eligible for bonuses based on the return on our investments, though the office is so new that we have not completed the first year of returns on which bonuses would be computed. So, in the past ten years no such bonuses have been paid.
———————-

1) How many people in the Investment Office are eligible for bonuses?

2) Have any bonuses been paid since this letter was sent? (I realize the College would not want to release the exact dollar amounts are specific person. No worries. I just want to know if any amount has been paid out under this program.)

3) What benchmark is used for calculating the bonuses?

Thanks,

Dave Kane

I will let you know what I discover.

#11 Comment By nuts On September 8, 2009 @ 2:28 pm

The question is whether Chilton’s total compensation is out of line with the market for college endowment CIOs managing $1-$2bil.

If you are going to make the claim Chilton is overcompensated, then I don’t know how you can make it without market data. I found and shared market data on compensation for hedge fund CIOs for 2009. I have not found compensation data for college endowment CIOs. Neither have you.

I don’t know if your assertion is correct or not, it may be, but I would want to have the facts before I made the allegation. Here are facts by which you could judge a hedge fund CIOs compensation relative to the market:

#12 Comment By Ronit On September 8, 2009 @ 2:59 pm

@nuts: David in comment #4 showed what several comparable college endowment managers are making.

#13 Comment By Ronit On September 8, 2009 @ 3:02 pm

I think it’s silly to dismiss what Grinnell, Swarthmore, and Amherst are paying their endowment managers as merely “anecdotal evidence”. There are very few others who are in precisely the same kind of position as Chilton, and these other LAC endowment managers seem perfectly good examples on which to base the argument that Chilton is overpaid. Not every reasonable and sensible claim has to be based on a statistical sample with 95% confidence interval.

#14 Comment By nuts On September 8, 2009 @ 4:04 pm

@Ronit: That data cites wages and benefits. It is not clear whether it is total compensation including performance bonus, where performance is total return relative to the competition.

#15 Comment By rory On September 8, 2009 @ 4:39 pm

anecdote was a ribbing. but it still is a very incomplete picture. our comparison group is schools with endowments of equitable size, not comparable LACs. I don’t doubt that the evidence is comparable to what hwc’s found, but David often chides others for using anecdote to make a case that is “an empirical question” as he’d put it.