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Ups and Downs of CFO Compensation

Executive compensation has been increasing after taking a hit in 2009.

Particularly since the financial crisis came to a head in 2008, the general public has been extremely sensitive to the salaries and bonuses that top corporate executives earn. However, CFO magazine reports that compensation has been making a comeback - and gaining some visibility - in recent years.

The source points to a report from Equilar, which uncovered a 26 percent increase in the median total CFO compensation between 2009 and 2010, from $2.4 million at S&P 500 companies to $3 million. This trend carried through to companies of other sizes as well.

"We've definitely seen the return of discretionary cash bonuses, which are awarded based on specific, achievable goals and targets, versus the slap-on-the-back, 'Nice job, Bob' sort of bonus we used to see," Deb Nielsen, director of data operations and executive compensation at Kenexa, told the source.

Past pay increases may continue into the coming years. A separate study from Merdian found that many companies in the U.S. are working to beef up their process for calculating executive compensation. They are also working to increase corporate governance polices that align more closely with shareholder interests, respondents told the firm.