Saturday, January 20, 2007
Three Kings For The Road
When the CEO is paid exorbitant compensation while the stock price drags along the ground like an apeman's knuckles, you know it's time to give the king the boot. Sometimes corporate boards are sluggish to act on such underperformers and need a little reminding. That's why it's important to have "activist shareholders who will challenge boards and CEOs on those extravagant pay packages at annual meetings" - as well as concerned unions and research associations more than willing to give those shareholders a boost. Three CEOs who are likely to find themselves in the sights of corporate pay activists sometime soon are:
1) Edward Whitacre of AT&T - Mr. Whiteacre earned $85 million during the past five years. After he retires, he will continue as a "consultant" for more than $1 million a year. He gets lifetime access to a corporate jet, a car (I can imagine the make), an office and a support staff. Got that? Lifetime access... Sounds downright pharaonic, if you ask me. Not to mention an annual pension of $5.3 million. During the same period shareholders have gotten a return on their investment of just 8.2 percent - less than half of the 20 percent they would have earned from a Standard & Poor's 500 Index fund. According to a pay expert who would prefer to remain anonymous, "Whitacre deeply misunderstands the current attitudes toward executive compensation." A labor union has put forward a proposal to AT&T shareholders to confront the board at their annual meeting this year about Mr. Whiteacre's compensation, especially his obscene "retirement benefits".
2) Joseph Tucci of EMC Corp. - Mr. Tucci earned $57.3 in total compensation from 2003 to 2005. Meanwhile shareholders "have gotten the shaft", according to Michael Brush at MSN.com. EMC's stock has lost 18 percent of its value in the last five years. EMC shareholders will have the opportunity to pass judgment on this fiasco at their meeting this year. They will have allies in their quest for justice. The California Public Employees' Retirement System is pushing for EMC shareholders to have a vote on executive pay packages, and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America have spearheaded a shareholder proposal to demand greater links between pay and performance.
3) Samuel Palmisano of IBM - Mr. Palmisan got $65.5 million in 2003 through 2005 in salary, bonuses, stock and stock options, long-term incentive pay and God knows what else. Plus a cool $1.2 million annual pension when he retires. Yet, over the past five years, the stock has sunk about 18 percent. Aided by a shareholder proposal from a union, IBM shareholders will have a say on bringing Palmisano's pay in line with his lukewarm performance.
"3 CEOs Who Ought To Go" from MSN.com