SAN FRANCISCO — Transocean Ltd. gave its top executives bonuses for achieving the "best year in safety performance in our company's history" – despite the explosion of its oil rig that killed 11 people and spilled 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
The company said in a regulatory filing that its most senior managers were given two thirds of their total possible safety bonus.
Transocean noted "the tragic loss of life" in the Gulf when the rig operated by BP PLC exploded last April. But it said the company still had an "exemplary" safety record because it met or exceeded certain internal safety targets concerning the frequency and severity of its accidents, according to the filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday.
Safety accounts for a quarter of the executives' total cash bonuses. The total bonus for CEO Steve Newman last year was $374,062.
According to calculations by The Associated Press, the total value the company assigned to Newman's compensation package was $5.8 million.
That figure includes an $850,000 base salary – a 34 percent increase from the prior year; perquisites of $622,057, which includes housing and vacation allowances, among other things; and the $374,062 bonus. Also included in the figure are stock options valued at $1.9 million and deferred shares valued at $2 million when those awards were granted in March 2010.
Transocean's Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion on April 20 in the Gulf of Mexico killed 11 workers and set off the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
A commission appointed by President Barack Obama earlier this year said the explosion was caused by a series of time and money-saving decisions by Transocean, BP and oil services company Halliburton Inc. that created an unacceptable amount of risk.
In the regulatory filing, the company said its bonuses were appropriate as a way to recognize its executives' efforts in "significantly improving the company's safety record" and implementing a new internal planning system.
Those efforts have "enabled the company to maintain its financial flexibility during a challenging period, while, at the same time, positioning the company for sustained growth in the future."
The Associated Press formula calculates an executive's total compensation during the last fiscal year by adding salary, bonuses, perks, above-market interest the company pays on deferred compensation and the estimated value of stock and stock options awarded during the year. The AP formula does not count changes in the present value of pension benefits. That makes the AP total slightly different in most cases from the total reported by companies to the SEC.
The value that a company assigned to an executive's stock and option awards for 2010 was the present value of what the company expected the awards to be worth to the executive over time. Companies use one of several formulas to calculate that value. However, the number is just an estimate, and what an executive ultimately receives will depend on the performance of the company's stock in the years after the awards are granted. Most stock compensation programs require an executive to wait a specified amount of time to receive shares or exercise options.