How ‘pay for performance’ compensation really pays off — for companies at tax time

Tim Cook got almost $400 million of restricted stock when he was named Apple chief executive in 2011, succeeding Steve Jobs. Regardless of whether Apple shareholders fared well or badly over the grant’s 10-year term, all Cook needed to do to collect that stock (worth about $700 million at today’s price) was keep his job. It was the kind of deal that pay mavens derisively call “pay for pulse.”

But two years later, Apple and Cook retroactively changed the terms of his grant, making about 40 percent of it “pay for performance” based on how Apple shares do relative to those of other companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index. Apple quoted Cook as saying he wanted to align his interests with those of regular shareholders.

What Apple didn’t say then — and now says only in passing — is that the change also gave the company a chance to get more than $200 million in tax deductions. Under Cook’s initial deal, Apple, which declined to comment, would have received no deductions because a 1993 tax law would have barred it from treating Cook’s grant as an operating expense.

Read more: Washington Post

Allan Sloan is a columnist for The Washington Post. He is a seven-time winner of the Loeb Award, business journalism’s highest honor. View Archive

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