Western Union wires its directors the big bucks __»

Executive pay gets a lot of attention at this time of year, what with the many corporate proxy filings going out to investors. But we think it’s important to pay more attention to some of the folks behind those pay decisions too.

We couldn’t help doing a double-take as we flipped through the proxy that Western Union (WU) recently filed with the SEC. While at first glance, it looks like the company’s non-executive chairman, Jack M. Greenberg, made a meager $567.70 for his efforts last year, that’s only until you realize the company is leaving off three zeros.

That’s right, Greenberg made $567,700 in 2009 for his role on Western Union’s board. Dinyar S. Devitre, another member of the company’s board and chairperson of its audit committee, made $345,100. All told, the company shelled out nearly $3 million for its nine directors last year, and one of them served only half a year.

The bulk of that came in company stock and options, and some of it was under three-year award programs; about $167,500 was donated to charities on the directors’ behalf (never a bad way to stay on good terms with the alma mater). It’s also a pittance compared to the $8.1 million CEO Christina Gold was paid in 2009.

Still, it’s more than we’ve seen even at most large companies this year, where director pay over $300,000 has been unusual, and typically involves payouts for a departing executive or a post-retirement consulting deal. Meantime, Western Union saw revenue fall 3.8% and net income fall 7.7% in 2009.

We were curious how much it would cost to wire Greenberg’s $100,000 cash retainer from Western Union’s Englewood, Colo., headquarters to New York City. Sadly, the company’s Web site declared the dollar value too high. But if we sent it in $10,000 increments, we could get it there using Western Union’s Money in Minutes service for just $4,750. Presumably, Western Union used a different method.

That’s also just a hair under the $5,000 Western Union spent last year on travel and entertainment for directors’ spouses during board events.

Image source: joeflintham via Flickr