Kenneth Chenault, an Obama White House confidant who was mentioned as a potential choice for the top job at either the Treasury or Commerce Departments, is the chairman and chief executive officer of American Express.
Company filings show that in 2012, Chenault received a payout of approximately $28.5 million -- about a 24 percent increase over the previous year -- for his role as the company’s CEO. From 2009 through 2011, he made a combined total of $57 million at American Express, according to records. Chenault joined American Express in September 1981. He was named chairman and CEO in 2001.
Chenault also sits on the boards of several corporations and nonprofit groups, including IBM, Procter & Gamble, the National Center on Addiction & Substance Abuse at Columbia University, the Smithsonian Institution’s Advisory Council for the National Museum of African American History & Culture and the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation, among others.
A review of public records found that Chenault made slightly more than $2.4 million in 2012 for his roles on such boards.
An African-American with philanthropic ties to urban and racial-minority causes, he supported Obama’s presidential efforts in 2008 and 2012. In 2011, Chenault was named to the president’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. The group advised White House officials during a two-year mandate that concluded in January 2013. Going into Obama’s second term, Chenault was reportedly considered for a position in the president’s Cabinet.
Chenault continues to promote aspects of the Obama administration’s agenda. He criticizes members of Congress, primarily Republicans, who oppose increasing the nation’s borrowing limit.
During an October 2013 interview with CBS News, he said that voting against increasing the debt limit would have “dramatic” results. “Failure is not an option, because what our government should be focused on is doing what’s right for our people, doing what’s right for the economy and, in fact, ensuring that the promise of this great country can be realized,” he said.
Born on Long Island, N.Y., Chenault earned degrees from Bowdoin College and Harvard Law School.
The Pay Pals project relies on financial research conducted by the Center for Economic Policy and Research.
* Year where CEO pay is prorated because they were an employee before or after their tenure as CEO.
By Shane Shifflett, Jay Boice, Hilary Fung and Aaron Bycoffe