High-ranking executives of Exxon Mobil and Chevron warned this week that the oil industry would have to prepare itself for permanently higher profits and the possibility that its top executives would no longer be able to track the increasingly enormous amounts of money pouring into their accounts.

High-ranking executives of Exxon Mobil and Chevron warned this week that the oil industry would have to prepare itself for permanently higher profits and the possibility that its top executives would no longer be able to track the increasingly enormous amounts of money pouring into their accounts.


“We are feeling the pain, too,” said an executive at Exxon Mobil. “I don’t think our profits can keep going up indefinitely, but until they do level off we will all have to live with this uncertainty.”


The upsurge in profits has already affected the habits of management at some big oil companies.


The Exxon Mobil executive said the continued upswing in his compensation has compelled him to look into creating gasoline powered solar panels and buying more fuel-consuming sports cars, but, he conceded, “there are only so many Bugatti Veyrons one man can use.”


In what promises to be a theme of the Geneva International Oil Executive Salon, which opens next week at the Hotel President Wilson, the executive at Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest oil company, offered a sobering outlook on the already high pay of chief officers, saying that he could imagine the salary of an oil executive remaining above $500 billion a year, or even twice that.


“It will be a real challenge for the oil industry to figure out what to do with all those extra billions,” said the executive who, like other executives who spoke on the record, requested anonymity out of apprehension that voicing his fears would cause even more profits to flow his way.


Exxon’s concern was in line with the strong worries voiced at most other large energy companies, which have benefited not only from rising oil prices but also from improved margins in their refinery businesses.


A member of the managing board of Chevron, the world’s second largest oil company, was also bracing for continued hefty oil profits. “The compensation paid to oil executives will not come down,” he said.


Pressure to find ways to track this enormous income is weighing heavily on leaders at the largest oil companies, said the Chevron board member, who notes that even now he has a staff of 101 lawyers, 52 accountants, 371 financial planners, 42 vacation planners, and 22 private jets “working around the clock” to try to accommodate his income’s needs.


In the latest sign that the profit contagion was spreading, oil executives, demonstrating outside their numbered Swiss bank accounts, tried to block a major payday that they say threatened their financial stability.


As continuing uncertainty drives up the incomes of oil executives, leaders at Exxon Mobil and Chevron said they would invest $500 million initially in a new joint venture that would allow them to share the cost of defending lucrative federal tax breaks and using foreign tax havens or “corporate inversions.”


“Those oil-industry tax breaks, which average about $4 billion, may be a bargain for taxpayers, but they are a real drain on our imaginative and physical capacity as we try to keep up with the ever greater inflow of money from government largesse on top of all the other sources of profit,” said a Chevron executive. “I am fearful that without more industry-wide cooperation, we simply won’t be able to keep with the demands of these mounting technology and market incentives.”


Another oil executive pointed to the $30.46 billion Exxon Mobil made last year and the 53 percent increase in its fourth-quarter profit as a warning sign that all oil executives need to heed.


“The gravy train is overflowing,” he said. “This isn’t just about Exxon Mobil. This is about everyone in this heavily subsidized multi-billion-dollar business that profits in good times and bad. There is no stopping the profits and anyone who thinks otherwise is simply deluding himself.”


Caviar prices surged on the latest reports, and indexes on Wall Street and other world exchanges increased sharply on the expectation that oil executives were desperate to invest their piles of cash rather than store them in the trunks of their Bugatti Veyrons.


Prudholme Smith, a managing director for oil and gas executive research at the Think Group Institute, said it was “highly unlikely” that output in another major oil producer in the world would be shut off, but he said that wouldn’t really matter.


“I think the executives are stuck with these profits and they’re just going to have to find a way to live with them,” he said.


An Exxon Mobil officer said he and his fellow oil executives were still holding out hope that tensions in the Middle East would subside and executives would be able to return to a life of normally obscene incomes.


“I would describe myself as cautiously pessimistic,” he said. “But I noticed that my fear of receiving greater profits has just caused my paycheck to jump by $400,000 in the last 24 hours.”


Philip Maddocks can be reached at pmaddocks@wickedlocal.com.