Thursday, April 08, 2010

Latest on New CIRM VP and Compensation

The California stem cell agency could be eyeing the possibility of beefing up non-salary compensation for a new vice president, who it has been seeking to hire since last summer.

The move appears to be in lieu of boosting the existing VP pay range beyond $332,000 and comes as CIRM President Alan Trounson seems to closing in on a candidate. On two recent occasions, the question of compensation for the new VP for research and development has been on the agenda of CIRM directors. In both cases, however, it was removed with no action. CIRM Chairman Robert Klein explained on one occasion that negotiations were not quite at the appropriate stage.

We have reported that directors were expected to be asked to increase the salary to meet the demands of the new VP. Otherwise there would be no reason to place VP compensation before directors. However, Don Gibbons, chief communications officer for CIRM, said in an email:
“You should know that despite your repeated assertions otherwise, there has never been any discussion of exceeding $332,000.”
We then asked Gibbons whether other types of compensation were being considered or the compensation package restructured in some way. Gibbons replied that “parts of compensation packages other than annual salary can require board review,” but did not elaborate.

The salary is touchy politically because California remains in the throes of a financial crisis that has resulted in major cutbacks around the state. CIRM, on the other hand, has not felt the impact because its budget cannot be touched by the governor or the legislature.

John M. Simpson
, stem cell project director for Consumer Watchdog of Santa Monica, Ca., attended the last directors meeting that was scheduled to address the compensation issue. He asked CIRM Chairman Klein about the matter.

According to the meeting transcript, Klein replied:
“We continue to calendar it and will for flexibility in each of our calls until we have gotten to a point that we can make a decision. It provides us the flexibility to consider it. But until we get to the point where we have done all of our due diligence and come to final terms, we're not in a position to take any action if, in fact, action is required. The president has the authority to hire this person. And to the extent that they need any additional approvals from us, we carry that on our agenda. So until we've hired him, we'll continue each time to have it on the agenda because it gives us flexibility.”

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