The Seattle Times' CEO pay rankings are based on data from Equilar, an executive-compensation research firm near San Francisco. Equilar examined the pay...

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The Seattle Times’ CEO pay rankings are based on data from Equilar, an executive-compensation research firm near San Francisco.

Equilar examined the pay packages of 140 CEOs at publicly traded companies based in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

Total compensation is the sum of base salary, bonuses, cash-incentive plan payouts, stock and option awards, and a catchall category called “other,” which includes the value of such perks as health-club memberships, life insurance and auto allowances.

Equilar’s total pay figures differ from the numbers given by companies in their proxies’ summary compensation tables, due to a difference in how stock and option awards are calculated.

The companies’ tally represents the portion of stock and option awards that vested in fiscal 2007, including any made in previous years. Equilar counts the grant-date value of new stock and option awards given during the year, regardless of when they vest.

Also, Equilar’s salary figures differ from a company’s when a new hire is involved. Equilar lists the annual base salary that an executive stood to receive had he or she been in place for the entire year; companies list the actual amount paid.

Measuring change in CEO pay from 2006 to 2007 proved tricky for about a fifth percent of Northwest companies because of new Securities and Exchange Commission rules that took effect Dec. 15, 2006.

The new rules require more information from companies on perks, pensions, severance agreements and the value of stock and option awards.

Companies that run on fiscal years ending before Dec. 15 disclosed pay under the new rules for the first time this year, making comparisons with the prior year problematic.

By 2009, all Northwest companies will have disclosed CEO pay under the new rules for at least two years, so year-to-year comparisons will no longer be as problematic.

— Amy Martinez