Studios bosses back stars in battle to avoid revealing their riches

Hollywood fights SEC's new rules
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The Independent Online

Watch out Wall Street. Hollywood A-listers are coming, and they're mad as hell.

Some of the West Coast's highest-paid stars are fuming over new rules that could force them to reveal their most closely guarded secret: just how much they really earn.

Want to know how much Will Ferrell gets for turning himself into an Elf? Looking to see how much it took to get Toby Maguire to sign on for Spider-Man III? The planned rules could make media companies' annual reports as racy as Heat magazine.

Worse, they may force celebrities to tot up the value of every last gift in an Oscar night goodie-bag and all that free champagne.

No wonder the stars have been bullying their studio bosses into trying to stop the new rules, which require disclosure of the remuneration of the three highest paid employees outside the boardroom.

They won't have to be named, but any celebrity spotter worth their salt would be able to work out, for example, that it was Johnny Depp whose treasure chest from Disney topped $37m (£21m) after he signed up for new Pirates of the Caribbean films last year.

The world's biggest media companies have clubbed together to write an unprecedented appeal to Wall Street's regulator, the Securities and Exchange Commission. Revealed on the SEC's website, it is signed by Disney, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, which owns 20th Century Fox, NBC Universal, CBS and the owner of Paramount Pictures, Viacom.

Their main argument: Hollywood already has enough greed and envy, thank you. The new information could tempt film stars and studio bosses to play companies off against each other, ratcheting up their pay still further. It is also impossible, the letter says, to tot up pay and perks accurately, since much is tied to how well films do at the box office.

"Application of disclosure principles that are directed to compensation strategies in common use for executives of public companies will raise a host of uncertainties when applied to the very different compensation arrangements that prevail with highly paid 'talent' employees."

Jeffrey Katzenberg, the chief executive of Dreamworks Animation, has also complained.

The SEC argues that shareholders have a right to know when a company writes huge checks for an individual. The rule is one of several new disclosure requirements aimed at stamping out excessive pay deals. It did promise, however, that studios' concerns would be taken into account when it finalises the new package later this year.

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