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Duke Energy utility CEO got big boosts to severance, pay

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Duke Energy Corp.’s board showed last year it really wants to keep CEO Lynn Good on the job, boosting the severance package she could get if forced out the door and raising her reported compensation to $21.4 million, according to a company report released Thursday.

Directors of the country’s No. 2 electricity company by total customers increased Good’s potential severance package to $41.2 million last year if she’s involuntarily dumped, a nearly 50 percent increase over 2016, according to a proxy statement released ahead of the annual shareholders meeting in May.

The jump in severance is tied to a big increase in stock Good could collect if the company and her job performance meet outlined milestones. Including a one-time retention award of $7 million, her reported compensation jumped by 55 percent to $21.4 million last year, nearly double from two years earlier, the report said.

That pay package, at least temporarily, could lift Good among the best-paid utility CEOs.

The chief executive of San Diego-based Sempra Energy, Debra Reed, got $18.8 million in total compensation as the top-paid utility executive in 2016, the last year for which comparative numbers are available, according to Electric Light & Power Executive Digest, a trade publication.

The typical CEO of a major U.S. utility drew $9.7 million in salary, stock and other compensation in 2016, according to a study by executive data firm Equilar for The Associated Press.

Duke Energy’s board determined Good had been underpaid after taking over as chief executive officer in mid-2013, and decided to address the shortfall.

The board’s compensation committee “took into account the size and complexity of Duke Energy and our ability to compete for talent against multiple industries,” the proxy document said.

Good’s $21.4 million pay package was 175 times more than the median $122,365 compensation of Duke Energy employees excluding the CEO.

Shareholders will signal their views on executive pay for Good and four other top executives by voting on a non-binding resolution at the May annual meeting. For the second straight year, the meeting will be webcast online rather than held in a live venue. Shareholders can submit questions in advance.

The Charlotte-based company recently won approval to raise rates on about half its North Carolina customers by 6 percent, and wants to increase rates on the rest of its largest market by 10 percent.

Duke Energy has 7.5 million customers in the Carolinas, Florida, Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky.