Friday, September 22, 2006

CEOs are Vile

I was cheerfully reading Tuesday Morning Quarterback while I snarfed my Thai fish cakes, and nearly spat when I came to the passage below. Perhaps I'm naive, but what "market forces" are operating on behalf of a CEO who's about to quit?

Much news and sports commentary focuses on the ever-larger paychecks of professional athletes. But even Peyton Manning is a day laborer compared to the modern Fortune 500 CEO. In May, Exxon Mobil shareholders passed the first resolution in company history to be enacted over opposition of the board of directors; at issue was shareholder fury regarding the $168 million retiring CEO Lee Raymond awarded himself in his final year. "There's some unhappiness about the way Raymond's compensation was handled," new Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson dryly told a news conference. During the summer Hank McKinnell was ousted as CEO of Pfizer. Over his last five years at the helm, he got $162 million, even as Pfizer earnings faltered. Carol Hymowitz of the Wall Street Journal reported that the head of Pfizer's "compensation committee" defended McKinnell's windfall on grounds of market forces in executive pay -- which in this context appears to mean, "CEOs at other companies are picking shareholders' pockets, too." There just wasn't anybody who would have taken the Pfizer job for less than $162 million? McKinnell's pay for his tenure atop Pfizer equates to $130,000 per work day.

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