Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Posts Tagged ‘executive compensation’

Will Ford Refuse To Share Profits With Its Workers After Paying Its CEO $26 Million?

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

Image: Pat GarofaloThe United Auto Workers and General Motors are close to finalizing a new contract, following the first contract negotiations to take place between the two since GM was rescued by the Obama administration. But the UAW is still working on a deal with Ford, the only one of Detroit’s big three companies to turn down government aid.

Ford has had nine profitable quarters in a row, and paid its CEO, Alan Mulally, $26.5 million last year. But at the same time, it is fighting against giving its factory workers their fair share of the profits from the company’s success:

At The Rouge, Ford’s massive, 94-year-old factory complex in Dearborn, Mich., there’s talk along the assembly lines of winning back raises and bonuses lost when the company was near financial collapse in 2007. Workers, who assemble F-150 pickup trucks at the site, are upset that Ford is trying to cut labor costs, especially after nine straight profitable quarters and a $26.5 million pay package for CEO Alan Mulally.

When the company was going to fail, the workers “gave up cost-of-living pay raises, performance bonuses and other benefits.” Last year, Ford reinstated merit pay and some bonuses to the company’s salaried, white-collar workers, but has yet to do so for its hourly-wage factory workers.

“We have the big honchos taking multimillion-dollar bonuses and they can’t even give us back” concessions, said Joe Pack, 50, who works at Michigan Assembly in Wayne, Michigan. “Ford has to do a lot more,” agreed Gary Walkowicz, who works at Ford’s Dearborn, Michigan plant.

In 2010, CEO pay across the corporate world went up 27 percent, while worker pay went up just 2 percent. Ford’s continued profitability would not have been possible without its workforce, and the company should be sure to recognize that fact during contract negotiations.

This post originally appeared in ThinkProgress on September 28, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Pat Garofalo is Economic Policy Editor for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Pat’s work has also appeared in The Nation, U.S. News & World Report, The Guardian, the Washington Examiner, and In These Times. He has been a guest on MSNBC and Al-Jazeera television, as well as many radio shows. Pat graduated from Brandeis University, where he was the editor-in-chief of The Brandeis Hoot, Brandeis’ community newspaper, and worked for the International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life.

Do You Care How Much the Boss Makes?

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Image: Bob RosnerThere is a bill currently in Congress that would require companies to provide a simple comparison of what the CEO earns and how this compares to the pay of average employees.

Sounds simple, right.

No this is controversial stuff. Some Republicans in Congress call the comparison between the chief executive’s pay and everyone else in the company “useless.”

Useless?

So a group backed by 81 major companies, including McDonald’s, Lowe’s, General Dynamics, American Airlines, IBM and General Mills, is lobbying against this proposal.

According to a study by MIT and the Federal Reserve, executive pay at the nation’s largest firms has more than quadrupled in real terms since the 1970’s even as pay for 90% of America has stalled.

Remember, this isn’t a labor union study. It’s done by MIT, the Federal Reserve, the University of California and published in the Washington Post.

In 1979 the average executive pay at the nation’s top companies was 28 times the average worker’s income. By 2005, executive pay had jumped to 158 times that of the average worker.

I’ve just lost any shred of objectivity. This is insane.

But don’t just look at it from the point of view of an employee. Don’t investors need to know these numbers? To see how much executives are gilding their own pockets?

Call me old school, but I believe that sunlight is the best disinfectant. Let’s hope that Congress doesn’t allow this information to see the light of day.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

2011 PayWatch: Average CEO Salary–$11.4 Million

Thursday, April 21st, 2011
Credit: Joe Kekeris

Credit: Joe Kekeris

While 25 million unemployed and underemployed U.S. workers are drowning, CEO pay skyrocketed by 23 percent, for an average salary of $11.4 million in 2010, according to the AFL-CIO Executive PayWatch. Released today, data compiled at PayWatch also show CEOs have done little to create badly-needed jobs, instead sitting on a record $1.93 trillion in cash on their balance sheets.

The 2011 Executive PayWatch features the compensation of 299 S&P 500 company CEOs and provides direct comparisons between those CEOs and the median pay of nurses, teachers, firefighters and others. For instance, while a secretary makes a median annual salary of $29,980, someone like Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf rakes in $18,973,722 million—632 times the secretary’s salary. The pay gap between Wall Street and Main Street has widened egregiously—as recently as 1980, CEOs made 42 times that of blue-collar workers.

(Check out the 2011 Executive PayWatch to read case studies of six CEOs and find out how many firefighters it takes to make the salary of one CEO. You also can compare salaries of nurses, secretaries and others with CEOs and share the results with your friends on Facebook. Click here to share on Facebook.)

Maybe CEOs can’t focus on job creation because they have more pressing issues—like lobbying to repeal key provisions of a financial disclosure reform bill Congress passed last year. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act requires corporations to reveal the CEO-to-worker pay gap—and the Wall Street rulers don’t want to do that. (Click here to urge your member of Congress not to weaken Wall Street reform in any way.)180x200_paywatch2011

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says the AFL-CIO will work hard to defend this historic reform. The brazen attacks by Wall Street lobbyists to undermine reform “surprise and offend me,” Trumka says, “and I think they will surprise and offend most Americans.”

Apparently Wall Street doesn’t want people to know that while working Americans paid for the economic crisis with their jobs, their homes and their retirement savings, these Teflon CEOs escaped unscathed.

CEO pay has helped fuel the rapidly escalating income inequality in this country which has worsened over the past decade to levels not seen since the years before the Great Depression. The increase of income inequality prior to the 2008 financial crisis and the recent recession is striking: Between 1993 and 2008, the top 1 percent of Americans captured 52 percent of all income growth in the United States.

About the Author: Tula Connell got her first union card while she worked her way through college as a banquet bartender for the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee (she was represented by a hotel and restaurant local union—the names of the national unions were different then than they are now). With a background in journalism—covering bull roping in Texas and school boards in Virginia—she started working in the labor movement in 1991. Beginning as a writer for SEIU (and OPEIU member), she now blogs under the title of AFL-CIO managing editor.

This blog originally appeared in AFL-CIO on April 19, 2011. Reprinted with Permission.

Time For More Executive Hard Time?

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Image: Bob RosnerAngelo Mozilo, co-founder of Countrywide Financial, a.k.a. No-Income-is-too-Small-For-Us-to-Give-You-a-Mortgage, agreed to pay $67.5 million dollars to avoid a federal civil fraud suit about to go to trial.

I know what you’re thinking, let’s hold a bake sale for Angelo. He clearly must be hurting. But chances are slim that you’ll see him at any soup kitchen, because he pocketed many times that amount of money in salary and perks before he drove his company into the ditch.

But it does raise an interesting question: Why isn’t the government going after Lehman, WAMU and other high flying executives from corporations that went into the toilet over the past few years? Especially when top executives pocketed so much cash from the deception and fake profits?

We’re not talking Salem Witch Trials. I’m simply suggesting that we start skimming off some of the cash that these executives skimmed off of all of us. I know this sounds drastic, but the top guys from Enron actually went to jail for their misdeeds.

Why are we suddenly so timid when it comes to the billions that these fat cats are sitting on?

This is especially confusing to me because of the rush by State Attorney’s General to sue over the recently enacted health care reform bill. Why aren’t our public officials going after the banking swindlers for the huge stockpiles of money that they extracted from all of us?

I would have thought that Attorneys General would at least understand the Willie Sutton rule. Mr. Sutton, the famous bank robber was asked why he robbed banks. He replied, “Because that is where the money is.”

Isn’t it time that we went where the money went? Anything short of a major offensive here sends a simple message to all that crime pays. That would be the worst message to come out of the pain of the past few years.

About The Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

Unfinished business of executive pay reform

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

Sarah AndersonMost analysts of the high-finance meltdown that ushered in the Great Recession have concluded that excessive compensation was a key causal factor. Outrageously high rewards gave executives an incentive to behave outrageously, to take the sorts of reckless risks that would eventually endanger our entire economy. Our nation’s leading political players have sought, sometimes with grand fanfare, to confront this reality. The financial reform package enacted this July, for instance, codifies several long-term goals of executive pay reformers, most notably a “say on pay” provision that hands shareholders the right to take nonbinding advisory votes on executive compensation.

This reform could become a valuable tool for shareholder activists, particularly if such votes are required on an annual basis. However, there is little evidence that “say on pay” has had an impact on overall compensation levels in nations where it has already been in practice.

To bring executive pay back down to mid-20th century levels, we need reforms that cut to the quick, which recognize the dangers banks and major corporations create when they dangle oversized rewards for executive “performance.” Some reforms that would move us in this direction are now pending in Congress.

One of the most promising would eliminate a perverse incentive for excessive pay in our tax code. Under current rules, there are no meaningful limits on how much a firm can deduct for the expense of executive comp. Thus, the more a firm pays its CEO, the more that firm can deduct from its taxes. The rest of us bear the brunt of this loophole, either through increased taxes needed to fill the revenue gaps or through cutbacks in public spending.

The Income Equity Act, introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), would deny all firms tax deductions on any executive pay (including stock options) that runs over 25 times the pay of a firm’s lowest-paid employee or $500,000, whichever is higher.

The Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and the 2010 health care reform bill set important precedents for this reform by applying $500,000 deductibility caps on pay for bailout recipients and health insurance firms. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has said he would consider extending the tax deductibility cap in TARP to U.S. companies generally.

Another practical proposal would use the power of the public purse to encourage more rational pay levels. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Illin.) has introduced the Patriot Corporations Act to extend tax breaks and federal contracting preferences to companies that meet benchmarks for good corporate behavior. Among the benchmarks: not compensating any executive at more than 100 times the income of the company’s lowest-paid worker.

By law, the U.S. government denies contracts to companies that discriminate in their employment practices, by race or gender. This reflects clear public policy that our tax dollars should not subsidize racial or gender inequality. In a similar way, this reform would discourage extreme economic inequality.

Congress should also revisit the proposal that passed the Senate last year which would’ve capped total pay for employees of bailout companies at no more than $400,000, the salary of the U.S. President. Such a restriction could be enacted today for application in the event of future bailouts. Given a clear warning about the consequences for their own paychecks, executives might think twice about taking actions that endanger their future – and ours.

Congress should not shy away from bolder action on executive pay. Lawmakers mandate limits on other types of corporate behavior all the time. They limit how much pollution corporations can spew out. They limit the chemicals companies can sneak into their products. They limit the hours they can force employees to labor. They set these limits because they recognize that irresponsible corporate behaviors threaten our communities.

Excessive executive pay, the Wall Street meltdown has demonstrated ever so vividly, endangers our public well-being as surely as any other pollutants.

Sarah Anderson is a co-author of the new Institute for Policy Studies report, Executive Excess 2010: CEO Pay and the Great Recession.

About The Author: Sarah Anderson is the Institute for Policy Studies Global Economy Project Director. He work  includes research, writing, and networking on issues related to the impact of international trade, finance, and investment policies on inequality, sustainability, and human rights. Sarah is also a well-known expert on executive compensation, as the lead author of 16 annual “Executive Excess” reports that have received extensive media coverage.

Shareholders Move to Curb Extravagant Pay for WellPoint CEO

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

headshotWilliam H.T. Bush – a WellPoint board member and President George H.W. Bush’s younger brother — collapsed at the annual shareholder meeting the other day, just as the health insurer’s CEO, Angela Braly, was trying to explain to angry shareholders why profits are up but the company’s reputation is in the tank. Thankfully, Bush improved enough to go home from the hospital, but the meeting never recovered. Braly refused to continue after paramedics wheeled Bush out, so she got away without answering any of the tough questions about her company.

Shareholders never got to ask why WellPoint and its Blue Cross plans in 14 states look like a train wreck to 34 million uneasy customers. Before Bush collapsed, the AFL-CIO, Connecticut’s public employee retirement system and other shareholders criticized WellPoint for abusing consumers, funding a duplicitous campaign to block health reform, and misusing premium money to give indefensible compensation packages to top executives. In 2009, Braly’s pay jumped 51 percent to $13.1 million. Many of us didn’t get a raise at all last year. Ten percent didn’t even have jobs.

Shareholders at the meeting didn’t get answers to some other big questions on the minds of investors. Why did legendary stock picker Warren Buffett, the world’s third richest man, dump 1.3 million shares (worth about $70 million at today’s price) of WellPoint stock during the first quarter. Buffett knows a little bit about money. What’s the deal? And what’s up with the company’s outrageous submission of inaccurate data to get California regulators to permit premium increases as large as 39 percent for individuals this year? And why is the company driven to pursue sleazy policies, like targeting patients with breast cancer for fraud investigations, and then calling President Obama a liar for saying the practice should stop? Is that really in the interest of the owners of $23 billion worth of WellPoint stock? Most investors want WellPoint to make money, not enemies.

Maybe Braly wasn’t worried about how things would look because her P.R. team decided shortly before the shareholders meeting to drop plans to webcast the event. Only reporters who attended in person could observe. Just like the health insurer Cigna did at its annual shareholder meeting last month, WellPoint shut out the media to minimize the impact of embarrassing questions.

Greed has made WellPoint completely lose touch with the founding mission of the nonprofit Blue Cross companies it acquired over the last 15 years (in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Nevada, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin). The Blue Cross plans, once seen as a refuge for each state’s sickest residents, have been transformed by Braly and her ilk into cash machines to satisfy the unbridled greed of Wall Street and corporate executives.

Rather than accept responsibility for the insurance industry’s unwillingness to slow the growth of health costs through tougher negotiations with doctors, hospitals and drug makers, Braly and her industry peers prefer to just keep raising prices, cutting benefits, denying care and boosting their profits and compensation. They serve the needs of the high rollers on Wall Street instead of millions of Americans.

The good news is that more shareholders are refusing to accept WellPoint’s unconscionable behavior and are taking action. The evidence of that came at the meeting when shareholders adopted a resolution to limit excessive CEO compensation by giving themselves an advisory vote on executive pay during the company’s annual meetings. Among the shareholders who demanded more “say on pay” was Connecticut State Treasurer Denise L. Nappier, who controls investments for the $23 billion pension plan for state employees. Similar proposals were defeated by WellPoint shareholders in 2008 and 2009, but the tide has turned.

The grotesque compensation paid to insurance CEOs costs more than the face value of their pay packages. It also exerts unhealthy influences on CEOs’ decisions about company finances and health care policy even when customers’ lives are at stake. That’s why shining a light on companies like WellPoint is so important.

Even by the standards of people who believe that it’s okay to do just about anything to make money, WellPoint consistently goes too far. Their turbo-charged greed is out of control, and their lack of any moral compass is shocking.

About The Author: Ethan Rome is executive director of Health Care for America Now and served as deputy campaign manager in HCAN’s 2009 successful campaign to win comprehensive health care reform. Rome has been a grassroots organizer, political activist, and strategic communicator for progressive issue and electoral campaigns for more than 20 years.

Bringing Overpaid Executives to Heel

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010
Photo by Martin Gardlin

Photo by Martin Gardlin

A recent Time magazine poll found that 71% of Americans who responded want the government to place limits on the executive compensation at firms that received bailout money. Yet accomplishing this task selectively is impossible to do.

The government did appoint a czar of executive compensation for these corporations, but he approved a $7-million salary/$3.5-million bonus plan for the head of AIG, 80% of which is now owned by taxpayers. Few workers, executives included, would agree to work for less than the going rate. Executives are simply used to earning millions of dollars, and there is little that either the czar or shareholders can do about it unless Congress limits all executive compensation. But the chance of such legislation passing is slim.

Why is limiting executive compensation so difficult? Because executives have a seemingly unassailable argument — market forces — that University of Chicago professor Steven Kaplan defended in an October debate: “Market forces govern CEO compensation. CEOs are paid what they are worth.”

Of course, market forces are cited not only to justify outsized compensation for executives but also poverty wages for workers. Textbooks claim that minimum wage laws and union wages create unemployment. Just what are these market forces, and should we let them determine executive compensation and wages?

When British economists David Ricardo and Adam Smith examined this question 200 years ago, they concluded that what a person earns is determined not by what the person has produced but by that person’s bargaining power. Why? Because production is typically carried out by teams of workers, managers and machines, and the contribution of each member cannot be separated from that of the rest. A driver and a bus, for example, generate $100,000 of income a year. The driver is paid $25,000. Is this because the driver had transported 10 of the passengers without the bus while the bus had transported 30 of the passengers without the driver? The driver’s pay is so small only because the driver is so weak at the bargaining table.

It was Smith who explained that the bargaining power of each party is determined by the laws that the government passes and the way that it enforces them, and that, as a rule, the government sides with employers against employees. He was particularly concerned with anti-unionization laws. Had he witnessed the largesse that boards of directors are permitted to offer executives, and the government’s behavior toward executives in the current crisis, he probably would have added that the government also sides with executives against shareholders and taxpayers.

Despite the logic of Ricardo and Smith’s explanation that it is power, not productivity, that determines what people earn, the notion that people earn what they “deserve” persists. It dates to the Haymarket riot of 1886 in Chicago — in which police and labor protesters clashed and several policemen and demonstrators were killed — and the labor unrest that followed. Concerned about this unrest, John Bates Clark, a Columbia University professor, warned in an 1899 book: “The indictment that hangs over society is that of ‘exploiting labor.’ If this charge were proved, every right-minded man should become a socialist.”

It was thus with a clear political agenda that Clark took it upon himself to prove that the charge of exploitation of workers was dead wrong. Clark’s “proof” was to ignore the fact that production is carried out by teams and that individual contributions cannot be measured. He simply declared that the contribution of each individual worker and each machine could be measured, and that the earnings of either workers and executives or machines are simply the values of these contributions.

In this view, if the government were to raise wages by law, employers would have no choice but to fire workers, because no employer can pay out more than the worker puts in. And if the government were to set limits on executive compensation, the bright and the talented would choose to work less or limit the level of their performance.

Evidence that Clark’s theory is wrong — that production is carried out by teams and that astronomical compensation is not a requirement for good performance — can be found everywhere. In 1941, Wassily Leontief, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, tried to alert economists to the fallacy of Clark’s theory. But Leontief, like Ricardo and Smith, was ignored. And Clark’s tale that earnings are determined by productivity alone is still being taught around the globe.

Corporate executives take a different approach: picking the argument that suits them. When it comes to their workers’ wages, Clark’s theory rules: The wage of each worker is equal to the value of his or her product, and raising wages will cause unemployment. When it comes to the executives’ own compensation, however, they hide behind the idea that an individual’s contribution can’t be measured. So even when the corporations they run lose big and their stocks decline, they still collect millions in pay. Executive compensation is now so large that executives’ work effort no longer has any relation to the level of their compensation.

Adam Smith got it right: The remedy for the rule of power is the rule of law. We need new laws to check the unfair distribution of the fruits of our labor. One such law could set a maximum ratio at any given company between the highest executive compensation and the lowest worker’s wage. Another could set a minimum ratio for the division of income between labor and shareholders. Still another could raise the minimum wage and tie it to the median wage, which would make the minimum wage a consistent living wage.

Overpaid executives take more than their fair share and leave too little for the rest of us, threatening our health — and that of society.

Moshe Adler teaches economics at Columbia University and is the author of “Economics for the Rest of Us: Debunking the Science That Makes Life Dismal.”

*This article originally appeared in The L.A. Times on January 4, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.

Image: Economics for the Rest of UsAbout the Author: Moshe Adler teaches economics in the department of urban planning at Columbia University and is the author of the just published book: “Economics for the Rest of Us: Debunking the Science that Makes Life Dismal.”

Why Organizations Are Getting Worse and Worse

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

Image: Bob RosnerI’ve averaged 35 speeches a year for the last ten years. Most of my audiences have been comprised of executives. And if there is an overriding concern that they’ve voiced to me during these presentations it’s that employees aren’t as loyal as they used to be.

The executives give lots of reasons for this decline in loyalty. A bad work ethic. The desire to follow the money at the expense of any other consideration. The lack of commitment to company goals and objectives. The desire to stick it to the man (okay, that last one came from me).

That is why a poll a while ago that found that 61% of bosses were unhappy with their jobs is so interesting to me. Because to this blog-ster it clearly shows that the employees are simply following the lead of their bosses. They see the short-term focus and they are less inclined to go down with the ship when their bosses are the first ones diving into the lifeboats.

But it goes even deeper than that. The poll also asked for the primary reason that the executives were looking to move on. The top five were: 1. Lack of challenge/personal growth (20%); 2. Limited advancement opportunities (18%); 3. Compensation (13%); 4. Poor company culture (11%); and 5. Boss not a good match (10%). Sound familiar?

Maybe I’m showing my age here, but this reminds me of the old Mad Magazine cover where Alfred E. Newman is looking at the cover of Mad Magazine, that is looking in the cover of Mad Magazine, that is looking in the cover… Well you get the drift.

The executives are not only experiencing a crummy place to work, they are passing it along to the people who are below them. With gusto.

Crummy organizations don’t just happen. They are encouraged, supported and nourished. And with executives perfectly willing to take the big paycheck and corner office, but not willing to actually build a sustaining organization. That explains why most companies are a six cylinder engine that is, at best, running on a cylinder and a half.

One of my favorite sayings comes from Africa, “When the elephants fight, it’s the grass that suffers.” So for all the talk of CEO perp walks and Sarbanes-Oxley, the bigger issue is not the greed and illegality—it’s the overall lack of anything approaching stewardship in today’s organization. Executives, before you blame your people, heal yourself first.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

Rule of Law Makes a Comeback

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

Remember when President Reagan was shot and Al Haig famously burst into the White House and said that he was in charge? Okay, it might not have been as over the top as Howard Dean’s scream, but Haig did become the poster boy for an “Era of Executive Testosterone Overload.” An era that seems to have come to an end. Finally.

Executives-in-charge, no that doesn’t sum it up adequately. Executives as rock stars is more like it. For much of the last decade the line between CEO and celebrity blurred. Some weeks there seemed to be more CEOs on magazine covers than supermodels. And gossip columns were full of tidbits on their lavish lifestyles.

In the future if they try to carbon date the exact moment when the “Era of the Executive” ended, remarkably it didn’t involve a “perp walk,” with a shamed executive being led away in handcuffs.

It ended with Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld. In this Supreme Court case, the justices held that the President of the United States is not beyond the law and must follow certain legal principals and the Geneva Convention—even in wartime.

This case is definitely the icing for the end of the unquestioned executive, but the cake has been rising for a long time. Enron, WorldCom, Tyco—executives learned the hard way—via hard time—that Leona Helmsly was wrong. It’s not just the little people who have to pay taxes. The rules are for all of us.

Consequences. What a concept.

Like it or not, we all need to get ready for more and more restrictions and rules surrounding executive behavior. Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX for short) is just the start. The reason that more regulations and restrictions will be right around the corner? Because people are tired. Tired of guys (yes, mostly guys) who earn millions of dollars in salary, with a boat load of options (backdated of course) and then still manage to justify having employees not covered with health care or on food stamps. Hollywood long ago learned that corporate executives are the perfect movie villain, can politicians be far behind?

Don’t get me wrong, I hate the idea of acres of staff having to be hired to fill out forms for the government. The problem is that SOX is necessary because executives couldn’t police themselves. Just like the Labor Union movement in the first part of last century, once again executives moan about a logical response to their greed run amok. What is always overlooked by executives and the often toothless business press is the wretched excess that preceded Unions, SOX, etc.

Sure there are good guys and gals out there in the executive suites. Warren Buffett immediately leaps to mind. For him to give a gift approximately 5 times the size of Carnegie and Ford is indeed worthy of sainthood. For that alone I promise to take back two-thirds of the Nebraska jokes I’ve made through the years. But it’s not good enough to give back some of the gain, the public is demanding that executives do the right thing from the very start. And I don’t think that’s too much to ask. Even from the Oil Industry.

Enjoy your slice of humble pie, Mr. Corporate Executive. You earned it.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

Not CEO Compensation, CEO Termination

Monday, March 9th, 2009

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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