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June 30, 2020

Executive Compensation at the Food Marketing Institute

by Anne Paddock

You’re not alone if you’ve never heard of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) – a non-profit, tax-exempt organization based in Arlington, Virginia whose mission, as a trade association, is to “represent, educate and improve the food industry.”  Formerly called the Supermarket Institute, FMI represents an estimated 1,500 members (40,000 retail food stores, 25,000 pharmacies and an indeterminate number of suppliers and business partners within the food retail industry).

In a country flush with trade associations that raise hundreds of millions of dollars, FMI is small:  they raise about $30 million annually ($26-$32 million annually over the most recent five year period) that comes primarily from two sources (membership dues and registration fees/exhibit fees, and sponsorships) and spend slightly less (primarily on compensation for the 85 employees, travel and conferences, fees for outside services, and office expenses).

At year-end 2017, FMI had $25 million in net assets but it is important to note there is also a Food Marketing Institute Foundation operating out of the same office address as FMI, that has $9 million in net assets; and a PAC, FoodPac, that also operates out of the same office address.

Leslie G Sarasin has been President and CEO of FMI since 2008. What is astounding is her compensation over the past few years as reported on the Form 990 submitted to the IRS:

  • $2.4 million:  2017
  • $2.2 million:  2016
  • $2.0 million:  2015
  • $1.7 million:  2014
  • $1.4 million:  2013

FMI has 85 employees who received $13.5 million, which equates to an average compensation of $160,000. However, only 24 employees received more than $100,000 annually which suggests there are some very well compensated employees at the top.  The 13 most highly compensated employees were:

  • $2,360,431:  Leslie Sarasin, President and CEO
  • $  562,129:  Dagmar T Farr, Secretary
  • $  555,703:  Mark Baum, SVP
  • $  460,986:  Jennifer Hatcher, SVP
  • $  433,257:  Salvadore J DiCarlo, Treasurer and CFO
  • $  386,996:  Patrick J Walsh, VP
  • $  386,764:  Robert Garfield, SVP
  • $  337,453:  Susan T Borra SVP
  • $  321,216:  Toni Mascaro, VP
  • $  307,901:  Margaret Core, VP
  • $  281,464:  Hilary Thesmar, SVP
  • $  261,790:  Richard Stein, VP
  • $  240,445:  David Nikes, VP

The 13 most highly compensated employees received nearly $7 million, more than half of all compensation paid out to employees.  If the 13 employees and corresponding compensation are deducted from total employees and total compensation then the remaining 72 employees received total compensation of $6.5 million, which equates to an average compensation of $90,000, still significant for a small non-profit but significantly less the the overall average compensation.

7 of the 13 (54%) most highly compensated employees are male while 6 (46%) are female, including the most highly compensated employee, Leslie Sarasin, President and CEO.

FMI paid for health or social club dues or initiation fees. Specifically, FMI paid for social club dues for Leslie G Sarasin, President and CEO, which was treated as taxable compensation. In addition, FMI paid for travel club dues for Susan T Borra, Mark Baum, and Robert Garfield with all reimbursements treated as taxable compensation. All of which means, the reimbursable health club and travel club dues may not have been for business purposes because these expenses were treated as personal compensation.

FMI also paid for companion travel. Specifically, FMI paid for spouse travel for Leslie G Sarasin.

The question to ask is why FMI is paying the President/CEO more than $2 million annually along with spousal travel and social club dues when the organization only raises about $30 million annually?  In addition and in reference to 2017, why did FMI pay 13 employees nearly $7 million (27% of total revenue) when the organization only raised $27 million?

To read the IRS Form 990 (2017), click here.

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