Vanguard Group has boosted its "Partnership Plan" payments to senior and veteran employees to $165.57 a share, up 13% from $146.52 last year, writes Daniel P. Wiener in a note to readers of his Independent Adviser for Vanguard Investors newsletter.

The plan "pays out millions of dollars a year to Vanguard's top dogs, while limiting most employees to a bonus that is calculated using a tricky set of variables related to their job 'grade' and tenure," Wiener adds. Vanguard declined to comment on the payment rate.

The increase is roughly in line with the S&P 500 stock index's advance for 2014. But that's not the basis for Vanguard partnership points, Wiener notes. Rather, the company factors in expense ratios and other performance measures.

Vanguard has been adding assets by more than 70% a year over the past three years (with little change in employment and a relatively modest reduction in customer fees), Wiener notes. But instead of an extra jump in Plan payouts, employees this year received a special one-time additional bonus for the firm's 40th anniversary, he said.

Vanguard is the largest private employer in Chester County, with about 10,000 "Crew members," putting it in a league with Merck, Comcast and JPMorgan Chase & Co. among the Philadelphia region's largest corporate employers. It's tough to say how much the bonus pumps into the regional economy each year, since Vanguard doesn't report executive pay or confirm how many Crew members receive how much.

Wiener has tracked Partnership Plan bonuses since Vanguard founder Jack Bogle started the program in 1984. Most years the increase has been above 10%. Only in two years, the down-market years 2002 and 2008, was the plan rate cut (by about 10% in that last financial turndown.)  Overall the plan bonus has grown by 48 times Bogle's initial payment of $3.43 a share, about double the increase in the S&P 500 over that period.