Monday, April 16, 2007


The Knights Who Say, "Gimme, Gimme..."

This item from The Huffington Post aptly contrasts the "knights" of the Business Roundtable with their Arthurian counterparts and finds them sorely wanting. They lack two of "seven knightly virtues" in particular - Justice and Generosity. They are pusillanimous poltroons if they dare to gainsay that truth. These pencil-jousters make the crew from Monty Python And The Holy Grail look like Richard The Lionhearted in comparison.

When Sir John Castellani - a knightly name if ever there was one, conjuring images of machicolated ramparts overlooking the medieval Mediterranean - objected to Barney Frank's bill to give shareholders an advisory vote on executive pay, he remained true to his cavalier roots, braying "Corporations were never designed to be democracies." Verily, sirrah, but methinks that shareholders ought to have a say. Shareholders aren't your employees, you velvet-butted dumbass. They actually invest your companies with the princely lucre to do your dastardly deeds. In fact, according to Robert Reich, "nonbinding advisory votes" on executive pay will have only a "modest effect" on the belching dragon of executive greed. Changes to tax codes and procurement policies are required to sink the lance deeper. But, as assuredly as in the reign of King John, the tax man nestles in the very codpiece of the monarch.

The Business Roundtable has been instrumental in pushing "an empty suit of armor" into the top position at the SEC, a certain Commissioner Cox who's leaning Tower-of-Pisa-like in the direction of the rascals most of us expect him to control. The CEOs continue to feel entitled to their inflated pay, but why should they? "By now the objection is usually made that top earners deserve what they get, so long as the rest of us reap the benefits of the broad prosperity that results from their leadership. That might be true if we were, but that's just it -- we aren't. CEO raises last year were much bigger than those received by average American workers -- 10.6 percent versus 3.7 percent for typical white collar workers." The Huffington Post cites the CEO of Merck who, true to the alchemical roots of the drug business, has been able to convert the corpses of 7,000 jobs into a 167 percent pay hike for himself. His name is Richard Clark, and he is a member of the Business Roundtable. Below are some other knightly knaves blissfully massaging piles of unearned gold at their places at the table:

1) Baron of Anadarko Petroleum, James Hackett, increased his ducats 78 percent in the last year, during which his company's stock tumbled at least 20 percent.

2) Michael Cannon, Marquess of Solectron, netted a 173.9 percent increase in salary even while his company's stock "lost a quarter of its value."

3) Douglas Sotlar, Duke of Con-Way, nearly doubled his tributes while his stock performance remained as flat as a bog at Agincourt.

It is one thing to increase one's gains proportional to those of the kingdom, if not of its subjects, but what sense does it make to increase them at the expense of both one's subjects and the realm? It it time for new Cromwell to decapitate these errant kings.

"Knights of the Business Roundtable: A Circle With Few Virtues" from The Huffington Post

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