In May 2006, then-Judge J. Michael Luttig made major news in the legal world by resigning from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to become senior vice president and general counsel of aerospace giant Boeing. Luttig served as a Fourth Circuit judge for almost 15 years, during which time he reigned as the #1 feeder judge, sending almost all of his clerks into Supreme Court clerkships, and came extremely close to becoming a justice himself.
Luttig’s resignation from his life-tenured Fourth Circuit judgeship came as a shock to many (and was viewed by some as “taking his toys and going home,” after he got passed over for the SCOTUS seats that ultimately went to John Roberts and Samuel Alito). But Luttig, who’s only 56 — he was appointed to the Fourth Circuit at the tender age of 37 — seems to be enjoying the new challenges of serving as GC of a large public company.
During his four years at Boeing, Luttig has given its in-house ranks a major makeover. He has brought in some top talent, including at least four Supreme Court clerks: John Demers (OT 2005/Scalia), Grant Dixton (OT 2000/Kennedy), Brett Gerry (OT 2000/Kennedy), and Jake Phillips (OT 2004/Scalia). Is there any in-house legal department with more former Supreme Court clerks than Boeing? Don’t forget to count Luttig himself, who clerked for Chief Justice Burger (OT 1983), after clerking for then-Judge Scalia on the D.C. Circuit.
UPDATE: Boeing boasts at least eight (8) SCOTUS clerks. Here are three who were inadvertently omitted from the original version of this post: Bertrand-Marc Allen (OT 2003/Kennedy), Lynda Guild Simpson (OT 1984/Powell), and Eric Wolff (OT 2000/Scalia).
And Luttig has given his net worth a makeover, too. At the time of his May 2006 resignation, federal circuit judges earned $175,100 a year. As executive vice president and general counsel of Boeing — the country’s largest aerospace and defense company, #28 on the Fortune 500 — he makes millions.
Luttig no longer has to worry about covering college expenses for his two kids (which he cited in his resignation letter as a reason for leaving the bench). And this past May, he and his wife, Elizabeth Luttig, bought a fabulous second home in beautiful Kiawah Island, South Carolina.
How much did Mike Luttig pay for his new place? And how does the price tag compare to his in-house compensation at Boeing?
We can’t take credit for discovering this acquisition. The Luttigs’ real estate purchase was first reported in the Charleston Post and Courier, which disclosed that “Roger and Gayle Hanley sold 79 New Settlement Road, Rhett’s Bluff to J. Michael and Elizabeth A. Luttig for $1.8 million.”
What did the Luttigs get for their money? According to the Trulia listing for 79 New Settlement Road, the house, built in 2001, has three bedrooms and three bathrooms. It’s spacious, boasting over 3,500 square feet (Lexus not included).
The Luttigs’ residence is located in the desirable Rhett’s Bluff subdivision — where, according to the Zillow map, it’s surrounded by homes worth much more:
The Luttig house is worth under $2 million, while its four nearest neighbors are worth over $4 million. The other residents of New Settlement Road must be saying to themselves: “A former federal judge has moved into that tear-down at number 79 — there goes the neighborhood!”
(In defense of the Luttigs, this is merely their second home. According to Luttig’s Boeing bio, he and Elizabeth and their two children have their main residence in the Chicago area, where Boeing has its corporate headquarters.)
Why did the Luttigs buy on Kiawah Island, aside from the area’s natural beauty? Although it’s a vacation home, the Luttig lair is well-located to local Boeing operations. A source tells us: “Boeing just opened up shop in Charleston — and his new house is definitely nicer than the Doubletree for work trips.”
And Luttig can certainly afford to buy a nice resort property. Check out his 2009 pay package from Boeing, which totaled $3,743,647 (as disclosed in the company’s SEC filings):
Restricted stock awards: $1,175,019.00
All other compensation: $93,014.00
Option awards: $463,615.00
Non-equity incentive plan compensation: $752,800.00
Change in pension value and nonqualified deferred compensation earnings: $523,039.00
Total Compensation: $3,743,647.00
Restricted stock awards: $0.00
All other compensation: $58,208.00
Option awards: $1,033,757.00
Non-equity incentive plan compensation: $385,200.00
Change in pension value and nonqualified deferred compensation earnings: $614,579.00
Total Compensation: $2,798,962.00
Two-year total take: a cool $6.5 million. John and Sam, you can keep those robes.
Significant portions of Luttig’s compensation were not in cash, to be sure. But even when only cash compensation is considered, Luttig places among the nation’s 100 highest-paid general counsel, as ranked by Corporate Counsel. Based on his 2009 cash compensation of $1,488,960, Luttig ranked #42 in the 2010 GC Compensation Survey, up from #79 in the prior year.
Most lawyers who go in-house claim they do it “for the lifestyle,” not for the money. [FN1] But as we can see from the case of Luttig, if you can become the general counsel of a Fortune 100 company, the money ain’t bad either. [FN2]
[FN1] Of course, being the general counsel of a company the size of Boeing is very different from the typical in-house position, in terms of both lifestyle and money (with the GC post being more demanding but also more lucrative). If you have information or opinions about the lifestyle and/or pay for a more normal in-house post, feel free to place them in the comments, or email us (subject line: “In-House Compensation”).
[FN2] Boeing ranks #28 on the Fortune 500 for 2010. Goldman Sachs, which comes in at #39, pays its GC even better: as previously reported, Goldman’s Gregory Palm has received over $59 million in stock and options since 2002 (plus additional cash compensation).
Real Estate Transactions [Post and Courier]
79 New Settlement Road, Kiawah Island SC [Trulia]
79 New Settlement Rd [Zillow]
The 2010 GC Compensation Survey: Staying Afloat [Corporate Counsel / Law.com]
Executive Biography: J. Michael (Mike) Luttig [Boeing]
Profile: J. Michael Luttig [Forbes]