The Daily Walk of Shame: Cowards

Editor's note: A former version of this article listed Starbucks as a negative example of executive compensation. At his request, Starbucks reduced CEO Howard Schultz's compensation earlier this year. The Fool regrets the error.

Coward: One who shows ignoble fear in the face of danger or pain.
– Dictionary.com

Today's subject: For all the pain that high-ranking members of corporate America have caused others over the past year or so, they seem surprisingly afraid of suffering any of it themselves. While rank-and-file workers throughout the economy face slashed salaries or arbitrary layoffs, these executive big shots seem to cringe at the thought of losing any of the padding in their cushy paychecks, or any of the nonsensical perks to which they've grown accustomed. And heaven forbid they should ever be held accountable for their own performance! I have no sympathy for such cowardly behavior.

Why you should be indignant: The Washington Post recently rounded up a list of compensation outrages, straight from companies that have relied on the government's largesse to survive:

  • Bank of America's (NYSE: BAC  ) Ken Lewis and CIT Group's (NYSE: CIT  ) Jeffrey Peek each got personal use of corporate jets last year, perks valued at $100,000.
  • Comerica (NYSE: CMA  ) CEO Ralph W. Babb Jr. received compensation for a new country club membership worth $200,000.
  • GMAC Financial Services CEO Alvaro de Molina received $2.5 million from company coffers to help pay his personal tax bill.

Accepting such outlandish perks, especially when your company's dependent on public money, seems downright craven to me. (The Obama administration's "pay czar" recently moved to limit executive compensation in firms that received large amounts of government money. Gee, I wonder why?)

I wish the examples above were the only shameful lowlights from our current crisis. Unfortunately, they're just the beginning:

  • Abercrombie & Fitch's (NYSE: ANF  ) CEO Mike Jeffries already draws huge compensation, despite his company's lousy performance. Now the company's paid him an equally large "retention bonus" just for sticking around. Somebody really thinks that guy's going anywhere?
  • Talbots' (NYSE: TLB  ) CEO Trudy Sullivan took a big payout to offset reductions in her retirement benefits. But the retailer she runs has been struggling operationally for a very long time now, while laying off workers and reducing their benefits.

What now? I recently complained about the confederacy of wusses in our midst, as more and more people vocally demand bailouts or government aid in the face of economic woes.

Then again, I'm not surprised that this whining has reached such a fever pitch. When nothing's fair; when bailed-out corporate entities pay their leaders handsomely; when merit no longer seems relevant to compensation; when a privileged few protect their well-being at the expense of their workers; and when such myopic cowardice actually seems lucrative ... well, what can you expect of everybody else?

Real heroes choose to do the right thing in the face of adversity, even when they're tempted to succumb to fear. Real heroes pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get to work creating things, not figuring out how to score a handout. Real heroes bravely jump in, embrace entrepreneurship, succeed on their merits, and take responsibility for their actions if things go wrong. If we don't celebrate executives who demonstrate such integrity -- if we instead continue to reward failure and greed -- we risk destroying our best investment opportunities, if not our economy as a whole.

I don't believe in coercion. As many philosophers have argued, a forced decision isn't actually a moral choice at all. I do believe that all the executives cited above should be free to choose their paths. However, that also means the rest of us are free to interpret what these people's choices seem to convey about them. Me? I think they're great big cowards.

Starbucks is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. The Fool owns shares of Starbucks and has a bear put spread on Abercrombie. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Alyce Lomax owns shares of Starbucks. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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  • Report this Comment On October 22, 2009, at 2:45 PM, hoosiereagle wrote:

    Al de Molina was brought in from the outside to help save GMAC. Get your facts straight before you go on your little crusade...

  • Report this Comment On October 22, 2009, at 2:54 PM, sweetgeorge wrote:

    Okay, so... If higher salaries and/or retention bonuses and/or other perks are what it takes to keep good employees at the executive level, how come the same rules don't apply to line workers or even to most blue-collar employees?

    Case in point: I once dined with the general manager of a company in England that builds molds for plastics. In addition to the company car (Jaguar sedan) used to drive to and from work as well as for transporting guests, and of course a company-paid Diner's Club (or equivalent) used to pay for the nice dinner we were having, etc., he was given a performance bonus at the end of each year. When I innocently asked whether his shop employees were also paid performance bonuses for better-than-standard productivity or production of good work product or find ways to improve scheduled delivery dates, his face turned quite red and he slammed his fist onto the table and actually 'hissed' that, "Performance bonuses must be paid only to employees who impact the bottom line of the company."

    A statement with which I agree wholeheartedly. And which, again, begs the question posed above.

  • Report this Comment On October 22, 2009, at 3:13 PM, mariofaranda wrote:

    If you don't like it, don't buy the company. If you don't like that they make that much money then you should realize that if he is in the top 1 percent of compensation, he is paying 40% of the american tax bill. "Let's cut their pay" -you say. If you want to do that remember that you and me and the other 99% will have to make up the difference. Stop crying about what they do, I anticipate that besides a few companies that won't pay back the TARP and bailouts, the taxpayer will make a killing. No matter what you do, there are people who will always love excess. But you trying to burn everyone at the stake is a little ridiculous. True. You will catch a few witches but most of it, will be a waste of resources on your part. If you don't like how a certain company treats its employees, don't work for them. If you don't like how anyone treats their employees, become self employed. We are running an immense deficit, but you don't see the president or congress flying commercial either. Stop crying.

  • Report this Comment On October 22, 2009, at 3:23 PM, kcanant wrote:

    Agree with the sentiment completely. But, I objected to the definition of <i> coward</i>. I believe that <i>fear</i> is a normal human emotion. I do not believe that having (or showing) fear is the sign of a coward. In fact, I define courage as the willingness to act in spite of fear.

    Interestingly, as my beef seemed to be with dictionary.com and not with the writer of this article, I went to the source (dictionary.com) and found their defintion:

    1. a person who lacks courage in facing danger, difficulty, opposition, pain, etc.; a timid or easily intimidated person

    A subtle, but IMO very important difference.

    Respectfully,

    kcanant

  • Report this Comment On October 22, 2009, at 3:33 PM, Atrossity wrote:

    My semantic problem with your article is completely due to my crippling neurosis and I would like you to address that in your next article.

    Yet another great one from Ms. Lomax, thank you. I, unlike you, don't own shares of Starbucks and so have the courage to support you. ;)

  • Report this Comment On October 22, 2009, at 3:37 PM, kedo76 wrote:

    Amen...reading through that reminds me of why we walked away from our house that had dropped $200k in value, and of course the reason is that through all of this I have learned to look out El Numero Uno and not be tied to this stupid moral and ethical boundaries of "hey, pay your mortgage, cuz it's the right thing to do" when things like in this article are going on. Banks are not looking out for you, company's you own are not looking out for you, no one is looking out for you but YOU, so I say stick it to them when you can. Have fun selling that house at auction Wells Fargo since you ain't getting crap for it...but keep posting those big fake profits, maybe someone stupd enough is buying your load of crap.

  • Report this Comment On October 22, 2009, at 3:43 PM, mariofaranda wrote:

    That is totally right. If we buy something we can't afford, we should just walk away!!! and then blame the people who loaned us the money!!! Morality and ethics are over-rated anyways. You are sticking it to them Kedo76, good job!!!... If you have thoughts like this, you really shouldn't share them.

  • Report this Comment On October 22, 2009, at 3:53 PM, kedo76 wrote:

    mariofaranda,

    Who said I couldn't afford it?

  • Report this Comment On October 22, 2009, at 3:59 PM, kedo76 wrote:

    mariofarada,

    Nevermind, don't answer that. You obviously have no idea how to invest. I had no skin in the game, and took total advantage of 100% financing. When it dropped in value, I walked. I don't care. I can not believe this society became so blindly stupid to allow 100% financing, etc. There was a small chance the house I bought could have gone up as it had already dropped 100k. This is called speculation, I get that, but I don't care since I didn't put anything down on it. This is not about affording it, but you knew that. Good luck with your 6 shares of PG. I am sure they will serve you well.

  • Report this Comment On October 22, 2009, at 4:10 PM, Arespreditor wrote:

    Very odd. I don't see any mention of pay to movie stars, senators and congressman or other politically acceptable groups, only a currently considered unacceptable group.

    While these non-merit shady deals are wrong, what is really interesting this is odd timing, coming out at the same time as the gov. power grab to control pay.

    I think writers who profess to state a wrong but are hiding their true agenda are great big cowards.

  • Report this Comment On October 22, 2009, at 4:39 PM, wuff3t wrote:

    A retention bonus for sticking around. Isn't that a salary...?

    I think you've answered your own question about the confederacy of wusses, and the fact the directors of huge companies can reward themselves so handsomely despite their very apparent failure to produce much of value indicates one of the flaws in the idea that the free market should be left alone because it will regulate itself.

  • Report this Comment On October 22, 2009, at 4:41 PM, XMFConnor wrote:

    Are there people who received way too much in bonuses/perks... absolutely. However, this is not isolated to the financial industry--- they are just easy targets for politicians who want to label all of Wall Street as greedy snobs for their own political gain.

    For example, you do not hear complaints about movie stars, athletes, and others who bring in millions and millions of dollars.

    The only difference is that the taxpayer had to come in and bail many of these firms out. I completely understand that argument. However, the conclusion that all of Wall Street should be shamed and labeled as greedy snobs who brought about this great financial collapse is wrong. The blame is everywhere--- from many financial institutions for sure (however, not all... so to label Wall Street as a target is not practical). but also the government's lack of oversight, and the individual consumer's greed (buying way too much house than he/she could afford). The blame is everywhere, but what is the solution? Is it to hammer down on Wall Street with an iron fist from the "pay czar" dictating compensation for hundreds of companies? Is it to extend government even more into the private sector when it cannot even control its own budget? I do not think so.

    What we need is to focus on solutions. If you want to hammer down on Wall Street executives... of which only a small subset can really be blamed for what happened, then fine. But the result will be that these executives leave their firms under restriction pay, go somewhere else to make more money, and then the companies that received bailout money will lose their top talent--- and the taxpayer will pay--- again.

  • Report this Comment On October 22, 2009, at 4:51 PM, TMFMileHigh wrote:

    Two things here:

    First, well done, Alyce.

    Second, to other commenters assailing this as an assault on large pay packages, please read the article again. Big paydays aren't the issue; big paydays for poor performance is *absolutely* the issue.

    FWIW and Foolish best,

    Tim (TMFMileHigh and @milehighfool on Twitter)

  • Report this Comment On October 22, 2009, at 4:56 PM, warrenzevon wrote:

    Mariofarada,

    Your objection to cutting the pay of the top 1%--they pay 40% of the tax bill--is weak and willfully ignores the fact that these people criminally control far more than 50% of US income. On top of that, the increase taxes they pay is a joke when you consider the amount of disposable income they have left over, compared to what the average American has left over. And don't give us some BS about these people being worth it...the ratio of salaries among CEOs to rank and file has soared from somewhere between 30 and 40 times to around 300...I don't suppose you want to make a case that today's CEOs (and other top execs) are 10 times more valuable than yesterday's? I don't think so. Truth is, rich Americans get all the breaks, while average Americans continue to see real quality of life erode and their access to opportunity diminish vs affluents because of lesser schools, soaring college tuition, and lack of access to the incestuous social/prof'l networks that keep the powerful in power and the rich rich. There's plenty about the 'free' market that isn't free, and turning a blind eye to the massive flaws and externalities either makes you a fool or disingenuous and trying to maintain your situation. One of the only reasons the system persists and people take this $%#@ is because the average American actually believes they'll be rich some day, so any idiot on the right can whip up fears of 'socialism' because Joe Sixpack thinks the left is after his wallet. Sad but true.

  • Report this Comment On October 22, 2009, at 5:01 PM, clydejazz wrote:

    Athletes and entertainers earn their money by bringing in customers. CEOs sometimes do, too, but the way corporate governance is set up, it's too easy for the Board and the CEO to loot the shareholders' money to pay themselves for non-performance.

    Shareholders need more power and more transparency, and I hope we get some new laws that give that to us. It's our money we're talking about, whether we're shareholders or taxpayers (bailout funders).

  • Report this Comment On October 22, 2009, at 5:03 PM, wuff3t wrote:

    Prodigy16 - you're right, there's plenty of blame to go around. But as the article suggests, why wouldn't the individual consumer be greedy and buy more house than they could sensibly afford, when the opportunity is presented to them and they can see how so many rich executives are paid massive compensation for doing such an appallingly bad job? If you create a blatantly unequal societal structure you can't be too surprised if people start to become disillusioned with that system and just grab whatever they can. Who wants to play by the rules when the rules are unfair?

  • Report this Comment On October 22, 2009, at 5:08 PM, Coreygranny wrote:

    I find it very difficult to absorb the totality of the downfall of our economic system and humanity. This is all predicated on greed and a complete disregard for our fellow human beings. You can't buy more house than you can afford and just walk away expecting your neighbors to pick up your slack. Nor can corporate America leverage itself so heavily as to burden taxpayers with the fall out. But that's exactly what is happening. These are not talented executives who deserve those obscene bonuses and equally obscene salaries. They are greedy people who are destroying our security and way of life. The government doesn't have any money we don't give them. They are also not designed to be efficient. So government intervention into any business is a BAD IDEA. All of these companies should be allowed to fail so that those of us who have not lived beyond our means for years and do an honest days work for an honest days pay can pick up the pieces and move on. Now, our great grandchildren will be paying for all of this, and our currency has lost favor in the rest of the world. They are moving us toward becoming a 3rd world country.

  • Report this Comment On October 22, 2009, at 5:10 PM, bernbern0 wrote:

    kedo76 and speculators of kedo76's ilk are as much to blame as the lending institutions that gave them the mortgages. It makes my blood boil to read the arrogance of kedo76 and the actual bragging about walking from the house. As long as there are people around like kedo76, we are all in deep trouble!!!!!!

  • Report this Comment On October 22, 2009, at 5:22 PM, mariofaranda wrote:

    Exactly!

  • Report this Comment On October 22, 2009, at 5:36 PM, richie54 wrote:

    You think these guys and gals are bad? Start googling the likes of United States Postal Service Postmaster General John Potter and you'll see how widespread this greed has become. It's permeated the whole government, as well as corporate America.

    And it's only going to get worse. Everyone has a "Take them for all they've got" attitude.

  • Report this Comment On October 22, 2009, at 5:47 PM, mariofaranda wrote:

    You don't have to go that far. Just scroll up and read what kedo76 has to say.

  • Report this Comment On October 22, 2009, at 5:50 PM, SweetDaddy59 wrote:

    Nice article, Alyce. I thought you were heading the direction of pointing out some senior execs who have been behaving with integrity during the crisis. I would love to see some examples of these heroes. I believe leaders with integrity and character tend to foster similar cultures within their organizations, and those are the organization that will perform well in the long run.

  • Report this Comment On October 22, 2009, at 6:02 PM, MKArch wrote:

    The pay Czar is just going to drive rain makers from government investments to non government investments. Leave it to the government to cut off it's nose to spite it's face. Maybe Feinberg should look into who is responsible for the trillion dollar federal deficits and claw some money back there while he's at it.

  • Report this Comment On October 22, 2009, at 6:41 PM, 7351jay wrote:

    Interesting article. Someone has said that integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching. These clowns have no integrity. We should do what the Amish do to these overpaid balloons; shun them.

    It works when you realize that society will not even acknowledge your presence.

  • Report this Comment On October 22, 2009, at 6:55 PM, TMFLomax wrote:

    Hi everyone,

    I am enjoying the feedback, please keep it coming. However, to SweetDaddy59's point, as it turns out, Starbucks' CEO Howard Schultz did request that his pay be cut. (An earlier version included him in the hot seat; I was not aware that the company had made this decision.) So that was an example of somebody who did act with heroism and integrity and I mistakenly called him out. I should definitely do an article that points out executives who have been trying to do the right thing in these times. Like I said in the article, those are the heroic corporate leaders.

    Alyce

  • Report this Comment On October 22, 2009, at 8:53 PM, jm7700229 wrote:

    Those companies running on taxpayer subsidies should be more circumspect. I'd be happy enough to jail anyone flying around in a corporate jet while sucking on the public teat.

    For the rest, how about this idea: don't invest in them and don't buy their products. I don't and so I don't need to whine about them.

  • Report this Comment On October 22, 2009, at 10:50 PM, ASalieri wrote:

    I'm certain the workers at Cessna would not join your (and Obama's) guilt-baiting of those who are provided private jets. I'm certain that those who earn their wages from country clubs that you would like to close would not participate in tut-tutting paid memberships. Executives do not earn their living by robbing their employees; to the contrary, they are paid the most when they can sell the most product at a profitable price, or as is the case now, when they retrench successfully in a bad market to keep a company alive during a government-led recession.

    The concept that one person's wealth comes at the expense of someone else in rooted in the zero-sum falacy that wealth is a static number, a finite pile of gold sitting somewhere, and needing "fair" redistribution to all of the deserving poor, or underpaid. Wealth is productivity; if we can quit punishing (taxing) productivity we can have enough wealth to go around and we will not have to exercise the class envy strategy of guessing whom each wealthy (productive) person robbed in order to achieve wealth (production). If we cannot bring ourselves to reward productivity, we will continue spreading non-productivity (poverty).

  • Report this Comment On October 22, 2009, at 11:27 PM, holosys wrote:

    Speaking of American executive moral values, I reflect on how I would be hard pressed to say what is worse: (A) Being tortured to death as I scream in anguish; or (B) Being in the room next to a torture chamber, and hearing the anguished screams of someone resonating through the walls; or (C) Watching someone being tortured to death on a video feed like in the movie "Saw" and its sequels (which I have avoided seeing being torture is not my thing). In sharp contrast, there is no doubt in my mind the majority of these executives would love to sip expensive champagne and eat canopies while (C) is entertaining them on a giant wide-screen. If some Hollywood producer like Quentin Tarantino makes (C) into a movie (perhaps in the spirit of the movie Wall Street) then Saw is going to have some macabre competition!

    Now, getting to my POINT, unless shown otherwise, I believe in my heart of hearts that a majority of American executives in these financial institutions, banks and corporations are dead to the suffering of others. They have no feelings for mass suffering (leading to increasing suicides) of U.S. citizens they ruin collectively by their greedy, ravenous hoarding of taxpayer dollars for their personal use. These snorting pigs are consuming everything at the taxpayer trough. These soulless individuals are unfettered in acting out their true barbaric instincts. (What’s next on the agenda, hunting people for sport with sniper rifles from Wall Street skyscrapers, or trafficking in human organs?) They live by the letter of the law; in short, they don't want to go to prison, and that fear is all that restrains them.

    I hope the governments including Justice Dept., IRS, SEC and other agencies brings these people to financial ruin and permanently bars them from serving in a public company in any fiduciary capacity.

  • Report this Comment On October 23, 2009, at 8:52 AM, ziq wrote:

    There's a common sentiment here that everything "The Guvmint" does is bad. I think Alyce holds it, to some extent.

    If everyone could be relied upon to do the ethically right thing all the time, we wouldn't need government. Coercion may not be ideal, but some people need to be coerced.

    According to free market theory, a talented CEO's salary is set by the market. If a company is paying its execs too much and its production-level employees too little it will not attract the best workers, will not be able to compete with another company whose exec and worker pays are more in line. Their products will be too costly and/or inferior; informed Fools will not buy their stocks. That is obviously not what has happened. Some argue that it's because we've never really had a true free market. That impresses me as much as the communists who argue that the reason for the violence and repression in China and the former Soviet Union was because they hadn't achieved a true socialist nirvana.

    There's never an ideal anything. We need the right amount of regulation to make more people do the right thing, without it stifling freedom of choice or innovation. We need to find that sweet spot, and it should be a continuous process; if something isn't working, try something else. That's the role of democracy. It doesn't help when so much of the government now is in the pay of those they are supposed to be regulating

  • Report this Comment On October 23, 2009, at 9:08 AM, grntree wrote:

    All the "bitchers" are p/o'd because they feel left out, and their rhetoric clearly demonstrates why they are where they are. The world owes them a living!

    Crass jealousy!

    As for the value of the dollar, you vote for the "empty suit", and you end up with "empty" pockets.

    How Fitting!

  • Report this Comment On October 23, 2009, at 9:45 AM, chelfert wrote:

    At my company, a national REIT that employs thousand with a multibillion dollar annual budget, this year the only employees who got raises were those earning less than $50K. There was a pay freeze in effect for everyone else.

    Another example of a company doing the right thing.

  • Report this Comment On October 23, 2009, at 11:09 AM, Gorm wrote:

    Does it not strike you that many of these companies have been hijacked?

    Boards don't represent shareholders. Boards support management that installed them. It is a good ole boys club - each enriching the other at the expense of shareholders.

    Now, who in their right mind could justify retaining Jeffries at ANF? He rules the roost and shareholders appear powerless!!

  • Report this Comment On October 26, 2009, at 10:34 AM, ewent0 wrote:

    Sure they're scared. Chief decision makers are always cowards who rule with an iron hand. Until someone stands toe-to-toe with them and calls it like it is. That nonsense that you have to pay a billion dollar salary to a guy who comes in, dumps thousands of employees, sends US business into a tailspin and then after a year, leaves with a solid gold contract for life should be jailed. That's not retaining the brightest and best. It's extortion with major national ramifications. These guys have no souls. If they did, they'd realize all those Chief Decisions they made are not so smart. But then, who was it who jumped out of buildings during the Great Depression rather than learn to live on less?

  • Report this Comment On October 28, 2009, at 1:55 PM, actuary99 wrote:

    Their was an article in the weekend WSJ a short while back called "Keeping the Pay Police at Bay".

    The conclusion was that the "pay czar" was a waste of taxpayer time and money, and that executives did, in fact, suffer heavy financial losses due to the recession.

    Ken Lewis holds tons of BAC shares. His net worth took quite a beating due to the recession.

    Jump off of the stupid hippy bandwagon. Yes, executive pay structures could be better. But examples of CEO's using corporate jets are so, so pointless in the big picture.

  • Report this Comment On October 30, 2009, at 4:53 PM, starfish36 wrote:

    The differential in pay between the highest 1% of this country's earners and the lowest 25% is the greatest that we have ever seen anywhere, anytime in the known history of the planet, and the gap is growing. See Kevin Phillips Wealth and Democracy for the figures. There is no basis in decency, much less need or economics for this very destabilizing fact and trend. There is certainly no basis for the great captains of industry, who, having run their companies into the ground, cut dividends and accepted government bailouts, to whine about government interference. We have seen what they can do. Don't like the Postal Service? Try Enron, Global Crossings, Tyco, AIG, Citigroup, Bank of America and the rest of the sorry lot. Say you pay taxes? Well, who will do that instead of you? Try to find a history book and look up what top marginal tax rates histrocially have been in this country since the inception of the income tax. We're way out of line, and we'll pay dearly.

  • Report this Comment On October 30, 2009, at 5:45 PM, starfish36 wrote:

    The pay differential between the top 1% and the bottom 20% is now greater in America than at any previous time in the history of this or any other country. The facts are set forth in Wealth and Democracy by Kevin Phillips. There is no need, much less any justification or morality for this differential or for the most highly paid to complain about paying more taxes. The entire situation is destablizing, and its existence bodes ill for far more than any "free market." It threatens the future of this country. Many of our "captains of industry" have overspent, overborrowed and generally run their companies into the ground -- and further fattened their wallets while cutting dividends and accepting government bailouts. Plainly, peopole who so comport themselves have no basis to complain about government interference. We have seen what they can do. Want to beat on the Postal Service? Why not Enron, Tyco, Global Crosssings, Citigroup, Wachovia and Bank of America to name a few others? Don't want to pay more taxes? Who, then, should pay them - the bottom 20%? The bottom 50% - anybody but the most wealthy? Has that ever been the idea behind our income tax? Try to locate a history book and see what the norm has been for top marginal tax rates in this country. We're way out of line, especially at the top, and we will pay dearly.

  • Report this Comment On October 31, 2009, at 1:43 AM, kmacattack wrote:

    ziq,

    you are RIGHT ON. Too many poeple are swayed by simplistic flawed political arguments. Newt Gingrich was the master of using the "paint the other guys in a corner" and "win at all cost" philosophy to create a "winning" coalition of angry voters who were told the "Guvment" was the problem, not racism, greed, fear and intolerance. Fomer republican congressman Mickey Edwards tells an interesting story about how destructive this "black and white-we are aboslutely good, the democrats ae absolutely evil" political marketing campaign perfected by the late Lee Atwater, father of the Willie Horton scare ad which probably elected George HW Bush. Atwater died of cancer at a young age, and, while on his death bed, apologized for his string of negative campaign ads, which were very effective, but he admitted were morally wrong.

    I absolutely agree with you when you are talking about the government officials are "in the pay" of the businesses which they are supposed to be regulating.

    Both parties are guilty of accepting "campaign contributions" (I prefer the old fashioned politically incorrect term BRIBES) from companies who aren't giving millions of dollars to candidates for mere amusement. Example: Big oil gives 85% of PAC cotributions to republicans, and from 1999 to 2005 "contributed" about $450 MILLION to republican candidates. Gasoline prices were $0.79 locally in the spring of 2000 , escalated rapidly PRIOR TO THE ELECTION to near $2.00, and eventually rose within a few years to $5.00, with no White House intervention or congressional oversight. Two oilmen "foxes" were in charge of the nation's "henhouse." The $450 million "investment" made by the oil industry was the modern day equivalent of the Louisiana Purchase for pennies per acre of land.

    The answer is to end the influence of money on national elections and to institute a system of public financing, with FREE ACCESS to the broadcast media, which use the PUBLIC OWNED airwaves. The FCC charter provided from day one that the airwaves would be publicly (not privately) owned, and that radio (and later TV) stations licenses would be issued for the purpose of "serving the public interest."

    The republicans used to have a huge fundraising advantage which no longer exists. When they controlled congress, they consistnatly fought the idea of public financing. Sen. Spector, then a republican, described the concept as "confiscatkion of private property." Print media, is in fact, private propety. Broadcast airwaves are public domain. The republicans, since they are now in such a difficult position, should now endorse the concept of public financing. We could then elect representatives on a novel concept....candidates with the best ideas, not those with the most PAC money, win.

  • Report this Comment On October 31, 2009, at 10:31 AM, punterman wrote:

    America = constitutional republic based on laws = RICO + Sherman + Clayton, etc.

    Minority of people at C-Level freely violating those laws = Justice Dept. incompetent or collusive or sham

    Being human = being moralistic with herd instincts = preaching what others should do rather than asking what the laws of the community say.

    Companies setting up a game to play = people developing skills to win the game = wanting to recoup their time and $ for developing those skills = working hard and wanting paid as much as possible

    Absentee ownership of companies = stock market = mgt. by spreadsheet = mostly short-term speculation by absentee owners + much less long-term speculation by absentee owners

    Just to be objective for a moment - if we own stock, we are not on site helping the company, but rather hoping others do work so that our lower-risk actions from a distance will bring us a windfall.

    Our government leaders just chose to be above the law by bailing out failed companies in the absence of bidding and transparent process, and without having collateral for the money they used. Read the text of RICO, Sherman, and Clayton - it doesn't take long. In a nation operated by law and not royalty or oligarch, does a government official get to capriciously break which ever laws they wish? Does the Justice Dept. get to ignore whichever laws they wish. I think that if we count to ten and keep our eye on the facts, that may be more helpful.

    Lynch mob democracy is not our country's charter. If the guy next door breaks the law and hurts one of us, do we go into vendetta mode and then break the laws ourselves to do something to him? Or do we read what the law says and then request that the authorities, who we have already paid to train and employ, visit the guy?

    It occurs to me that people think they're going to die if some rash action isn't taken out of emotion or mob-think. Why not just have our FBI/SEC/etc. read the laws and then apply the laws that we have, even to people in congress or executive branch or executive suites? They have been pre-paid by all of us to do just that.

  • Report this Comment On October 31, 2009, at 12:06 PM, dpp1035 wrote:

    If you don't like big pay packages for underperforming CEOs, change the Board of Directors. The CEO didn't give himself that package unassisted.

    Instead of blaming a CEO for not going against his own self interest (when was the last time YOU volunteered to take a pay cut because your company wasn't doing well??), let's put the blame where it belongs... the morons on the board who think that's a good way to spend shareholders money.

    Let's face it, if you do a bad job and your boss gives you a good raise, is that your fault? No, the bad job you did was your fault but the inappropriate raise was his fault. Of course if you're a union worker this logic does not apply, but that's a whole other story.

  • Report this Comment On October 31, 2009, at 6:45 PM, hopingupward wrote:

    I love to pay a CEO 120 mil a year that took the stock I owned from 56.00 to l8.00, and he is still there ie Chesapeake. --- Great job at the going rate.

  • Report this Comment On October 31, 2009, at 8:00 PM, gnorton100 wrote:

    There is no Walk of Shame for these overpaid, underperforming executives. They act without conscience, taking everything afforded them by their Golden Parachute contract, which pays them huge sums even when they are fired for running the company into the ground.

    They have no idea how the average person exists because they are enclosed in their ivory towers and only rub shoulders with other wealthy people in their ivory towers.

    I've said it before and it still holds true. The American public is getting fed up with being raped by the politicians and top executives. And the American Revolution, an exact correlation to the French Revolution, is coming.

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2009, at 7:13 AM, Zhire wrote:

    i'd like to see a followup article on CEOs we can celebrate

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2009, at 3:59 PM, TMFLomax wrote:

    Zhire, followup article on CEOs we can celebrate (with a call for more intelligence on such leaders from the community): http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2009/10/27/daily-walk-...

    To dpp1035, Morgan Housel did a great article on placing accountability on the boards of directors, so that's directly to your point:

    http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2009/10/30/you-want-na...

    Alyce

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