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Car and driver…

When it takes two pages of footnotes to explain a summary compensation table, you know there’s got to be something interesting buried in there. And so it is with American Express’ (AXP) recent proxy. Beyond the compensation, which has already been widely reported, the footnotes show that Amex spent $118,582 to provide Chairman and CEO Ken Chenault with “local transportation” which in proxy-speak means a car and driver. That’s nearly as much as former NYSE head Dick Grasso spent on his car and driver back when he was still running the exchange. It’s also a 20% increase over what Amex spent in 2003 on the perk. Indeed, looking at the three numbers in the proxy, local transportation costs have increased 20% each year. The car and driver bill is disclosed under “other annual compensation” — not to be confused with the similarly named “all other compensation” and also includes the cost of Chenault’s personal use of the Gulfstream, which only increased by 6.5% in 2004, but is up 35% from 2002. Also puzzling is exactly what else is included in “other annual compensation”. Amex only gives numbers for the Gulfstream and the Town Car, but those two numbers together only account for around two thirds of the $450,000 in other compensation. Perhaps next year, they’ll expand the footnotes some more to account for that.