There are golden parachutes. And there are pyrite CEO bonuses, like the $10-million foolâˆšÂ¢â€šÃ‡Â¨â€šÃ‘Â¢s gold bonus recently requested by Merrill LynchâˆšÂ¢â€šÃ‡Â¨â€šÃ‘Â¢s John Thain, as reported by the major media.
The funny thing was that Thain was prospecting for an eight-figure payday after nearly running Merrill Lynch into the ground. And even worse, his greedy play exposed him as an ivory tower denizen with a total disconnect to whatâˆšÂ¢â€šÃ‡Â¨â€šÃ‘Â¢s going on in AmericaâˆšÂ¢â€šÃ‡Â¨â€šÃ‘Â¢s middle class neighborhoods. Has Thain not seen the cobwebs adorning retail cash registers or the government cheese lines that look like something out of Disney World on a sunny day, just with more frowns and fewer plastic mouse ears?
Of course, after Thain was lambasted by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the exec of the fledgling company changed his mind.
Under the shroud of a recession, executive pay has become much more transparent, especially when salaries and bonuses continue to rise in lieu of languishing profits. Or even worse, when these bonuses are being subsidized by taxpayer-supplied bailouts. Credit gun-slinging politicians like Cuomo and a general public that just wonâˆšÂ¢â€šÃ‡Â¨â€šÃ‘Â¢t stand for the disparity any longer.
While it took the Big Three domestic auto heads a little while to clean the wax out âˆšÂ¢â€šÃ‡Â¨â€šÃ„Ãº maybe the high altitude endured while flying in their private jets messed with their inner ears – they finally got it. Now GMâˆšÂ¢â€šÃ‡Â¨â€šÃ‘Â¢s Rick Wagoner and FordâˆšÂ¢â€šÃ‡Â¨â€šÃ‘Â¢s Alan Mulally are accepting $1 annual salaries, part of their concession to bid for a federal bailout.
What nice guys, right? What goddamn Samaritans? Heck, these swell fellas actually drove cross country last time they came to beg for money from Uncle Sam.
Does Wagoner not realize that most families make longer drives, jam-packed in awful cars without chauffeurs each year âˆšÂ¢â€šÃ‡Â¨â€šÃ„Ãº and thatâˆšÂ¢â€šÃ‡Â¨â€šÃ‘Â¢s for vacation? Someone should force him to watch âˆšÂ¢â€šÃ‡Â¨â‰ˆÃ¬Little Miss SunshineâˆšÂ¢â€šÃ‡Â¨Â¬Ã¹ with his eyelids pried open a la âˆšÂ¢â€šÃ‡Â¨â‰ˆÃ¬A Clockwork Orange.âˆšÂ¢â€šÃ‡Â¨Â¬Ã¹
But heâˆšÂ¢â€šÃ‡Â¨â€šÃ‘Â¢s a hero, right?
Lost in the salary shuffle is the fact that these auto chiefs stole someone elseâˆšÂ¢â€šÃ‡Â¨â€šÃ‘Â¢s shtick, namely, the tech industry. You might remember how in 2005, Google execs Eric Schmidt, Larry Page and Sergey Brin agreed to do their gigs for a buck. And these techies actually copied Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who initiated the token salary concept.
WeâˆšÂ¢â€šÃ‡Â¨â€šÃ‘Â¢re not calling these smart rich dudes heroes, either. After all, given the stock grants and other perks these fat cats get, theyâˆšÂ¢â€šÃ‡Â¨â€šÃ‘Â¢re not exactly struggling.
But at least the top brass in the tech world get it, and had the foresight to understand the goodwill they could build with employees, shareholders, the media and even the general public through this effort.
And the day Google chiefs fly to Washington to beg for funds is the real day the earth will stand still.