Columbia's Spiegel State's Highest-Paid S&L; Chief--Again

Times Staff Writer

Thomas Spiegel, the maverick Columbia Savings chief executive whose $9-million pay package in 1985 was deemed excessive by federal regulators, received $5.46 million in compensation for last year, the company's latest proxy statement reveals.

That compared to $4.38 million in 1986 and again made the 41-year-old Spiegel the highest-paid executive in the California savings and loan industry, and one of the highest paid executives nationwide.

Spiegel's 1987 and current compensation levels appear to be the result of recommendations from an outside consulting firm brought in by the Beverly Hills-based S&L; at the urging of regulators. Columbia had deferred for almost two years actions on certain aspects of his 1986 and 1987 compensation, while meeting with regulators concerning their objections to his 1985 pay package.

Spiegel was awarded $9 million for 1985, including a deferred $5-million payment into a special retirement fund. But in April, 1986, the Federal Home Loan Bank Board threatened to order Columbia's board of directors to pay Spiegel only his $960,000 annual salary--a threat that was never carried out. The dispute has been in limbo ever since.

Columbia said in its latest proxy, released Friday, that its board determined Spiegel's 1987 pay package in March after deciding "that it was inappropriate to delay any further" decisions about his compensation because of the ongoing FHLBB dispute. The proxy did not say whether the 1985 disagreement had been resolved, but Columbia officials privately expressed confidence Friday that Spiegel's 1987 pay is acceptable to regulators because it was based on recommendations of the outside consulting firm, Towers, Perrin, Forster & Crosby.

Lorna Thompson, spokeswoman for the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, refused to say whether the agency had resolved the 1985 dispute or approved Spiegel's 1987 compensation. "I'm sure our supervisory agents were aware of it," she said.

Spiegel's $5.46 million package for 1987 included $960,000 in base salary, $3 million in bonuses and $1.5 million in contributions to a supplemental retirement program. He also appears to have earned an unspecified amount from stock options. Spiegel's 1988 base salary will be reduced to $750,000, but he will participate in a special incentive pay plan linked in part to the performance of the firm's stock.

The proxy statement also revealed that Lawrence K. Fish, 43, lured from the Bank of Boston earlier this year to become Columbia's president and chief operating officer, will receive $2 million in 1988, including $1.5 million in bonuses.

Spiegel and Fish, who were traveling, were unavailable for comment.

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