Pay to corporate directors grew at a slower rate in 2005, compared to the previous year, according to a study by Mercer Human Resource Consulting.

The study found that corporate directors received an average 6.1 percent increase in compensation in 2005, compared to a 17.8 percent rise in 2004. And last year, median pay among the chief executives at most of the country's 100 largest companies rose 25 percent, to $17.9 million.

Executives at Mercer pointed to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 as having had the biggest impact on the still rising salaries. In a statement, senior compensation consultant Peter Oppermann said that the largest spikes came a few years ago, when directors and audit committees become responsible for an increased corporate governance workload. Since then, pay growth has slowed as duties stabilized, he said.

The study was based on an analysis of the proxy statements of 350 large publicly traded companies in the USA. Median director pay in 2005 was $164,637. The computer and office equipment industries paid directors the highest salaries, with median total pay of $261,704. The lowest-paying industry was forest and paper products, which paid a median of $124,000. Mercer also found that fewer directors were receiving stock options as part of their compensation.

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