Saturday, March 28, 2009

Where are the Hero CEO's?

Every day, as I scan the newspapers and Internet services, there are new "fallen heroes" peppering the landscape with their behavior that I would have not tolerated in my own children.
Baseball players using enhancing drugs and lying about it. CEO's making unjust profits as their publicly-held companies falter, Financial advisers padding their incomes at the expense of their trusting clients.
What makes this horrible is that it affects an audience much greater than the misdeed, and something needs to be done.
The next generation is inheriting a mess, and their empirical view may be that grasping for prosperity and the gold ring will only benefit someone who is willing and capable to steal their earnings, their future, and their dreams for personal gain.
In a publicly held company, the first duty of the management is to the shareholders - to reward their investment and confidence with increased value; raising the stock price, increasing market share and profitability, doing good works that benefit the reputation and status of the company.
Today we see top executives receiving compensation that is greater than the GDP of a third world nation. Executives paid handsomely to leave companies, and a sleight of hand with compensation that masks the true compensation with future stock warrants and "$1" annual paychecks.
Carl Icahn said that is is cheap to pay $26 million to a CEO who is destroying $1 billion of market share as an incentive to LEAVE the company. I agree, however it feels like a form of blackmail - none of my bosses would have paid me to vacate my desk for poor performance. He also said that he could get top talent to run a company for less than the fantastic pay packages granted by the compensation committees.
So here are a few ideas; when you look at the role of the CEO as a leader, look at the big picture. Are the paychecks deferred (like a stock option, where the stock is bought at today's price and the purchase is actually made in the future, AFTER the "recovery"?) making their $1 paycheck a good gamble? And is it tempered with a hefty severance package, ensuring that failure WILL be rewarded?
Keep in mind that I am only talking about compensation. To be a Hero CEO, you have to be a leader. LEADING a company that is doing what is necessary to stay competitive in the present, and show value to the SHAREHOLDERS (remember us?) in the future. Keeping their pay in line with the company's stature and growth, while minimizing the impact of the economy on their employees, those in the trenches toiling for the companies profits.
Feel free to send me any nominees for Hero CEO's. but remember, they have to be more than a an illusion or a self-aggrandizing scammer. Our children, and the world, have to see America as the land of opportunity, not the home of corporate greed and avarice towards ones workers and fellow men.
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