Merrill Lynch CEO got $31.3 million bonus for '04


NEW YORK - Merrill Lynch & Co., the world's largest securities firm, said yesterday that it paid Chief Executive Officer E. Stanley O'Neal a 2004 bonus of $31.3 million in stock and a salary of $700,000.

O'Neal received 551,057 restricted shares of Merrill stock Jan. 24, when the shares closed at $56.80 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading, the New York-based company said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

"He deserves it, particularly the stock compensation," said Michael McKeon, head of the financial services practice at Booz Allen Hamilton, an international management and technology consulting firm. "It's all about pay for performance."

Merrill said Jan. 25 that its fourth-quarter earnings fell 1.8 percent to $1.19 billion as the company hired more brokers and investment bankers. Revenue jumped 21 percent to $5.89 billion from $4.85 billion, the biggest percentage gain since the first quarter.

Last year, Merrill paid O'Neal a stock bonus valued at $11.2 million for 2003. Combined with his salary that year of $500,000, a cash bonus of $13.5 million and $2.8 million in stock appreciation rights, that gave O'Neal total compensation of $28 million for 2003.

Compensation costs rose to 46 percent of net revenue last quarter from 42 percent, offsetting increases in sales and fees at all of the firm's four main businesses. O'Neal added 620 brokers in 2004 after cutting jobs for three years to revive profit.

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