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At the Top of the Met, Salaries Rose During Buyouts & Layoffs

Consider the top two-thirds of this posts as akin to a re-tweet, because I have not confirmed the numbers. Yesterday, the New York Post published a story online headlined “Money-losing Met hands execs hefty raises.” In it, with numbers drawn from a new (or newish?) 2015 federal income tax filing, we learn that four current employees of the Metropolitan Museum*–director Thomas Campbell, president Daniel Weiss and the two top investment officers–all got substantial payouts in the last fiscal year.  According to the Post:

  • Weiss “got a $300,000 bonus for less than half a year on the job” and his “total compensation for six months of work came to $818,112, which included a salary of $327,931 and a housing allowance for his Park Avenue apartment.”
  • “Campbell’s total compensation was $1,428,935, including a salary of $942,287. His salary and “other compensation” of $127,622 was a 7 percent increase over the previous year.”
  • Suzanne Brenner, the Met’s senior VP and chief investment officer….saw her bonus rise to $624,828 from $570,590. Her total compensation was $1,583,553.”
  • “The salary for chief investment officer Lauren Meserve jumped 14.7 percent and her bonus shot up to $548,723 from $466,847. Her total compensation was $1,451,775.”

OK, I have to ask, who is responsible for such ill-timed, less-than-sensible increases, coming when the Met has laid off and bought off about 85 people?

Well, I traced it back to Daniel Brodsky (at left), who not only is chairman of the Met’s board of Trustees, but also is chair of its Compensation Committee and, of course, of its Executive Committee.

Other members of the compensation committee are Candace K. Beinecke; Russell L. Carson; Richard L. Chilton, Jr.; Hamilton E. James and Lulu C. Wang, according to the Met’s most recent annual report.

As I have hinted here once before, the Met needs a new board chair as well as a new director. Apparently, it could also use some new trustees, some with more common sense and a concern, at bare minimum, about the optics of their decisions. Plus, as a confident of mine added, a sense of honor.

*I consult to a foundation that supports the Met.

Comments

  1. David Allan says:

    I am not surprised, but am truly disappointed.

    I think that museums accepting public money,
    as well as those accepting donations and / or charge an entrance fee,
    should display the salaries of their top executives.

    Ideally at the entrance, next to the signs suggesting $25 ‘donations’ …

    It is only fair that people know how the money is being spent !

  2. The Met, similar to all other nonprofit organizations, has a responsibility to the public to compensate their executives at a level that is fair and reasonable. This is done by hiring a compensation consulting firm and looking at benchmarks. The Met has few benchmarks when it comes to museums – although for the investment officers there are many. So, from a technical, legal point of view, they are likely within, what the IRS calls a “safe harbor.” On the other hand, there is the appearance of fair and reasonable – and particularly when an organization is scaling back, when it is reducing headcount, when it is losing money, the board must take these circumstances into account. Were they to have kept the President and Director’s salaries at the same level, or asked for concessions, there is little risk that either would leave for another job (a Fifth Avenue apartment does not come with many other positions). In fact, it is a strategic error that could have been a strategic advantage, had either or both of the leaders decided to take a salary cut or delay a bonus, or something that, when public, would have demonstrated a keen eye (and not a ‘tin ear” as it relates to the rest of the staff. The form 990s (the documents that make public nonprofit executive compensation) are usually published 12 months to 18 months after the end of the fiscal year, but eventually, the information emerges. The press (your blog, and those remaining reporters who take the trouble to read the data) serve us all by keeping information that is public, public. Let us remember, we all own the Met, and most everything inside it. The board is there to mind our assets. They need to do a better job for all of us.

  3. “A sense of honor”? The phrase has a refreshing ring to it. What the Met needs is a board whose entire membership possesses this trait. Should be a requirement. – Louis Torres, Co-Editor, Aristos (An Online Review of the Arts)

  4. Just to be fair, those salaries are for the end of 2015. 2016 is when sh#t hit the fan. But they did receive hefty increases when the foundation was cracking.

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