Three lawyers were among the top six highest-paid executives at ViacomCBS Inc. in 2020, according to a proxy statement filed by the media conglomerate.
General counsel Christa D’Alimonte and fellow attorneys Nancy Phillips and Doretha “DeDe” Lea received more than $12.7 million in total compensation, the April 2 proxy filing shows.
The payouts come as the company continues to face shareholder litigation related to the Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp. merger a year ago. The reunion of the two companies resulted in rounds of layoffs by New York-based ViacomCBS, which is now divesting itself of non-core assets.
Phillips and Lea joined the combined company in late 2019 ahead of the completion of the $11.7 billion all-stock merger. D’Alimonte, a former top lawyer at Viacom who succeeded Michael Fricklas in 2017, assumed leadership of the combined ViacomCBS legal group in December 2019.
D’Alimonte was one of five lawyers from both legacy companies that received nearly $20 million in collective compensation in 2019. Three of those lawyers—Lawrence Tu, Laura Franco, and Jonathan Anschell—are no longer with either legacy company. Tu, a former CBS legal chief, left that company in 2019.
Anschell, a former media division legal chief at ViacomCBS, was hired by Mattel Corp. in December as the toy maker’s new top lawyer. Franco, general counsel for the CBS-branded business at ViacomCBS, left the month prior to become chief legal and compliance officer for Bumble Inc., a dating app that went public in February.
In January, ViacomCBS saw its chief compliance officer Henry Moniz depart to join Facebook Inc. as the social media company’s first-ever compliance chief.
D’Alimonte and ViacomCBS didn’t respond to requests for comment about whether Moniz, Franco, or Anschell have been replaced internally.
Richard Jones, a former accountant, U.S. Army Ranger, and longtime CBS lawyer who now serves as general tax counsel and chief veteran officer at ViacomCBS, was not among the top six highest-paid executives at the company in 2020. ViacomCBS disclosed that Jones received nearly $3.3 million in 2019.
The top paid executive at ViacomCBS last year was CEO Robert Bakish, who took home nearly $39 million in total compensation. Bloomberg News noted that Bakish presided over the successful combination between Viacom and CBS, which reunited under the Redstone family’s ownership after having previously split in 2006.
Parceling Out Pay
D’Alimonte’s remuneration from ViacomCBS totaled nearly $6 million in 2020, up from the roughly $483,000 she received the year prior. That much smaller sum reflected only salary and bonuses paid to D’Alimonte by ViacomCBS and none of the compensation she received from legacy Viacom in 2019.
Her 2020 pay package comprises $1.25 million in base salary, nearly $2.5 million in non-equity incentive plan compensation, and almost $2.2 million in stock awards, per the most recent ViacomCBS proxy. Bloomberg data shows that D’Alimonte owns more than $1.5 million in ViacomCBS stock.
Lea, a longtime Viacom executive and cable industry advocate, is now head of global public policy and government relations at ViacomCBS. She earned nearly $3.2 million in total compensation from the company last year, a sum composed of about $912,000 in base salary, nearly $750,000 in stock awards, and $1.4 million in non-equity incentive plan compensation.
Phillips, a veteran human resources executive who began her career as an attorney, serves as chief people officer at ViacomCBS. Her 2020 pay package was $3.6 million, which came from $787,000 in base salary, a $540,000 bonus, nearly $1 million in stock awards, and $1.3 million in non-equity incentive plan compensation.
Lea and Phillips, while trained as lawyers, are not members of the legal team at ViacomCBS. The company’s board of directors includes four other attorneys.
A director compensation table filed by ViacomCBS shows it gave nearly $350,000 in total compensation last year to Hughes Hubbard & Reed senior partner Candace Beinecke; $336,000 to former Sony Corp. general counsel Nicole Seligman; and $322,500 to Robert Klieger, a Hueston Hennigan partner who has long represented the interests of the Redstone family in various battles for control of its media empire.
Family patriarch Sumner Redstone, a media industry titan who began his career as a lawyer, died last summer at 97. His daughter, fellow attorney Shari Redstone, received $500,200 in compensation for her role chairing the ViacomCBS board.
In November, ViacomCBS said it would sell its Simon & Schuster book publishing business to German media giant Bertelsmann SE & Co., owner of Penguin Random House. The nearly $2.2 billion deal is expected to close later this year.
Shearman & Sterling, a law firm where ViacomCBS’ top lawyer D’Alimonte was once a partner, is advising ViacomCBS on its sale of Simon & Schuster. The latter’s general counsel, Veronica Jordan, took over the role in 2019 after predecessor Hazel-Ann Mayers was named chief business ethics and compliance officer at CBS.
Mayers is one of many ViacomCBS in-house lawyers to have left the combined company within the past year. Others include Emily Stubbs, who in August became global head of litigation at Chinese social media company TikTok Inc. In October, former ViacomCBS senior counsel Mikhia Hawkins joined media industry rival the Walt Disney Co. as a principal counsel in New York.
Manas Mohapatra, a former chief privacy officer at ViacomCBS, left in May to become a deputy general counsel and chief technology counsel for the Bank of New York Mellon Corp. Mohapatra, a former senior attorney at the Federal Trade Commission who worked at Twitter Inc. prior to joining Viacom in 2017, was succeeded at ViacomCBS by Alice Abatzis Nasi, a former privacy chief at CBS.
ViacomCBS, which didn’t respond to requests for comment about its legal and compliance teams, has also hired lawyers to rebuild its in-house ranks.
The company picked up international trade expert Kira Alvarez as a vice president last summer and hired a trio of former Big Law associates—Mahin Aminian, Elyka Anvari, and Christina Skaliks—to fill counsel roles within the past six months, according to Bloomberg Law data. Shearman & Sterling associate Orla McMahon in New York was seconded to ViacomCBS last month.
ViacomCBS has also named a trio of new deputy general counsel—Lance McPherson, Seth Levin, and Rick Baker—during that time frame.