Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Not CEO Compensation, CEO Termination

March 9th, 2009 | Bob Rosner

What will it take for me to invest in the stock market, as you suggested that I should, Mr. President?

I know the market is cheap and will eventually rally, but there is just one itty-bitty problem. I don’t trust the leadership of any organization that has received TARP funds or any other taxpayer money. GM, Bank of America, AIG, I’m talking to you!

Albert Einstein once said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Or with the same people. The same greedy “leaders” who hired mathematicians to design exotic financial scams, who clearly weren’t Einsteins, and got us into this mess in the first place.

I got a tear in my eye when Ken Lewis, the CEO of Bank of America, said that he was going to stay on the job until ever last penny was paid back to the taxpayers. Ken, don’t do us any favors. You need to leave. If for no other reason than you managed the 2008 TARP money so poorly that one of your top reports, Thain, was able to give $3.6 billion of it to his “top performers” (Readers: please supply your own sarcastic reference here).

TARP-receiving-CEOs, you have money. You have houses. Fancy cars. Trophy spouses. And you screwed up. Please step aside so we can find new leaders, who will bring confidence back to our leading corporations and the stock market. The very people who all of us would be willing to invest in again.

A friend, and former CEO, challenged me on this point. She asked, “Do you really want novices running these Fortune 500 companies?”

“Yes,” I replied. “If the last six months are the work of pros, then bring on the amateurs.”

However, there are real leaders out there. For every bank that acted like it was in Vegas, there are Credit Unions that avoided credit swaps and derivatives like they were a Port Authority toilet seat. I would trust a sober Credit Union CEO, who resisted the temptation to join mass hysteria for more stable returns, than the very guys who got drunk on them and who are now begging us for more, more, more.

There are also insurance companies, car companies and others who didn’t come to the taxpayers with top-hat in hand, asking to be bailed out. Let’s reward these real leaders for their insight and guts and let them take over these institutions who seem impossible to satiate or trust.

When I see that there is a new crew in charge, I’ll be ready to get out my checkbook and start investing. But I’m tired of throwing money at the same old screw-ups that used earlier taxpayer money for bonuses, fancy trips and remodeled offices. And I’m not alone.

One more thing would increase my confidence in the market. To have a Securities and Exchange Commission that isn’t just a lap dog, but is more of a junkyard dog. Mr. President, we need someone crazy enough to whip our CEOs into shape. Please allow me to humbly present a few possibilities:

  • Rudy Giuliani—can you think of a bigger bully to get the attention of the corner office crowd?
  • Simon Cowell—the colorful headlines he’d generate insulting today’s corporate titans could almost single-handedly save the newspaper industry.
  • Ari Gold—the way-too-hyper agent from HBO’s Entourage, but think about it, wouldn’t you be constantly looking over your shoulder if you were being regulated by a fictional character?
  • Eliot Spitzer—imagine what a burr in the side of Wall Street he’d be this time with an even bigger chip on his shoulder?

Imagine the current crop of CEOs out of the picture and seeing Rudy, Simon, Ari or Eliot with a big stick to keep the new ones in line. Heck, I’d start to invest again. Wouldn’t you?

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. He has been called “Dilbert with a solution.” Check out the free resources available at workplace911.com.

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