Schwab boss leads pay list

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Second was Sanford Weill at Citigroup who amassed $89.7m, followed by Charles Schwab himself on $69m and Bank of America's Hugh McColl who received $48.4m.

At the other end of the scale, the lowest compensation package, a meagre $100,000, was paid to Warren Buffet at Berkshire Hathaway. As one of the richest men in the world, however, Buffet can afford to take a nominal salary, especially in a year in which Berkshire's net income fell 45%.

The second worst-paid last year was Charles Johnson at Franklin Resources, who received just over $1m. Median pay for a financial services chief executive was $6.8m, 19% up from 1998. The figures are part of an annual survey of US chief exec compensation, by consultant William M Mercer. They include the total value of salary, bonuses, option gains, long-term incentive payments and restricted stock grant values.

Outside the financial sector, other top earners included Dennis Kozlowski at Tyco International, with $169.9m, John Chambers of Cisco Systems, with $121m, and Steve Case at AOL, with $117m.

Overall the survey showed the increasing popularity of long-term incentives. These now make up 63% of a chief exec's compensation in the US. Five years ago salary and bonus accounted for more than half of median direct compensation.

European pay, meanwhile still lags well behind the US, says Cliff Weight, principal executive of compensation practice at William M Mercer: 'It will take some time before we move up to the US level, although there will be pockets of industry where talents cross borders, particularly in telecoms and IT, where US figures will be replicated.'