Most of us are quite used to paying our own way for certain expenses. If we're taking a trip with our families, we plan, scrimp, and save to do so. If we feel insecure enough (or wealthy or important enough) to require security details, we most likely wouldn't ask somebody else to foot the bill for that, either.
These are personal expenses, and most of us take personal responsibility for such wants and needs. However, many CEOs are enjoying what most of us would consider normal life expenses on shareholders' money.
Shareholders run over on the runway
The corporate jet perk is one of the most well known and arguably most abused perquisites in existence. It's one thing when a corporate jet caters to executives who are traveling for business purposes. However, when executives are allowed to use the corporate jet for free and for personal purposes (including flying their families around on personal matters), that's when it gets abusive.
The folks at Footnoted.com recently revealed a few interesting cases in this particular type of flight from shareholder value.
You'd think running a company would be good enough reason to simply relocate and save shareholder money, but apparently that personal sacrifice doesn't seem worth it to D'Ambrosio. And can you imagine this guy's carbon footprint?
Last year, American Electric Power
In a nice aside, Hubbard pointed out something in Berkshire Hathaway's
That's not just classy. It's common sense.
Putting an expensive fence around FarmVille
America's CEOs receive all kinds of outrageous perks. Even younger-generation chief executives from less established companies are apparently receiving some pretty sweet deals.
According to Hay Group data, most companies spend less than $250,000 on this CEO compensation-related line item.
I guess it could be kind of scary to be a well-known, wealthy chief executive who draws a lot of attention. Granted, Zynga's Pincus has also had to pursue legal action against a woman who he claims has violated a restraining order.
If rumors are true that the alleged stalker has been threatening Pincus and claiming that FarmVille was her Russian family's creation and even reporting to police that Google was sending messages to her brain in 2010, well, that doesn't sound like a particularly secure or stable situation. I can sympathize, but unfortunately, anyone can fall victim to such unpleasant incidents. Most of us unwashed masses have to rely on 911, more effective anti-stalking laws, and better help and constraints for people with a history of such behavior.
Furthermore, Pincus' net worth put him in the billionaire club right after the Zynga IPO, and he made about $109 million when he sold 7.8 million shares back to the company last year. It's hard to see how the company paying for this personal problem is well justified, especially for an extremely successful denizen of Silicon Valley.
Overall, along those whole "well-known, wealthy" lines, most of these folks are very well paid for their troubles as chief executives in the first place. Factoring in additional compensation for security certainly helps explain how CEO pay in general gets excessive.
As proxy statements continue to stuff mailboxes and hit the SEC.gov database, it's pretty certain more excessive and even ridiculous perks for companies' highest-paid employees will continue to see the light of day. As shareholders, we must keep a sharp eye on these expenses.
Even beyond the bottom-line, profit-draining aspect, there's the psychological element: Are these managers mostly out for themselves? If that's the case, we can consider voting against their compensation plans or the directors who make up their compensation committees, or we can ditch these stocks altogether.
When corporate managers care more about their own bank accounts than shareholder value and respect, then the bottom line isn't just in danger. The bottom line for shareholders is danger. Somebody forgot who's working for whom.
Check back at Fool.com every Wednesday and Friday for Alyce Lomax's columns on environmental, social, and governance issues.