TVA pays new CEO $5.9 million, nearly 50 percent more than predecessor

photo Bill Johnson
Arkansas-St. John's Live Blog

The Tennessee Valley Authority boosted the pay for its chief executive officer by nearly 50 percent during fiscal 2013 to a record $5.9 million.

In its year-end financial report filed today with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, TVA said it paid CEO Bill Johnson total compensation of more than $5.9 million during his first nine months as head of the federal utility. Johnson's predecessor, Tom Kilgore, was paid just under $4.03 million in his last full year on the job at TVA before retiring at the end of 2012.

Johnson, the 59-year-old former CEO at Progress Energy, began his job as head of TVA in January. Despite the increase in CEO compensation at TVA, the utility said in a regulatory filing that Johnson's pay is still below average in the industry. Compensation consultants Towers Watson said the average CEO of a comparable size utility was paid nearly $6.8 million in total compensation last year.

Under the TVA act, the federal utility is supposed to pay competitive pay levels to private industry. Johnson's total compensation is believed to be the highest of any federal employee in America.

Johnson's salary was frozen under the federal pay freeze. But his base salary paid for nine months of work, $712,500, represented only 12 percent of his total compensation. Most of what was paid to Johnson this year came from performance incentives of nearly $2.6 million and and deferred compensation payments of $2.06 million.

Although CEO compensation went up, TVA's pay for other top executives declined in fiscal 2013. TVA paid its chief financial officer, John Thomas, $2.1 million in 2013, or 3.3 percent less than the prior year. TVA's chief counsel, Ralph Rogers, was paid $1.9 million in 2013, or 25 percent less than the previous year. TVA's chief nuclear officer, Preston Swafford, was paid $1.9 million for most of 2013 before leaving the agency in August. In the previous year, Swafford was paid 18 percent more.