Julie Chen avoids the Katie Couric rule…

April 14, 2008

One of the things that’s always fascinating to me is how different companies in the same industry handle routine disclosures on various things like perks, or salary, or related party transactions — basically things they’d rather not talk about, but which they’re required to by the SEC.

Take the proxy filed by CBS Corp. (CBSA) late Friday and their disclosure on Julie Chen, who happens to be married to CBS CEO Leslie Moonves:

Julie Chen, the wife of Mr. Moonves, is an anchor on CBS Networks’ The Early Show and the host of the CBS Network show Big Brother. Ms. Chen’s compensation is comparable to talent in similar positions at the CBS Network, and the Company believes it is comparable to entertainment talent in such positions generally.

That’s the same exact disclosure from last year, at a time when many companies are providing a lot more details on this sort of thing. Essentially, CBS is acknowledging this as a related party transaction, but refusing to provide any details on Chen’s salary, perks, or even the length of her contract that would help investors gain a better understanding of the related party transaction.

Now compare that to Disney (DIS), which given its ownership of competing network ABC, makes for a pretty good comp. In their proxy filed back in January, they disclose the full details of a relationship between a board member, whose wife happens to work for Lifetime Entertainment, a network that is only 50% owned by Disney:

Director John Bryson’s wife, Louise Bryson, serves as President—Distribution and Affiliate Business Development for Lifetime Entertainment Television, a cable television programming service in which the Company has an indirect 50% equity interest. Ms. Bryson received an aggregate salary (including car allowance and payments of deferred compensation) of $602,023 for her services with Lifetime during fiscal 2007 and received a bonus of $431,091 in fiscal 2007 with respect to her services in fiscal 2006

Clearly, the former is a lot more related party-esque than the latter. Perhaps, it’s because Disney learned a lesson from the mess a few years ago.

But for CBS, it’s a good thing that the so-called Katie Couric rule was not put in place by the SEC.

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