Zap ridiculous disclaimers, reform CEO pay in one fell swoop

business and consumers, society, workplace

Stupid disclaimers.  You know ‘em, and you probably either ignore them or laugh at them.  Slightly enhanced samples that are either spoken at 420 words a minute or that take up a bazillion lines of tiny tiny text on the back of ads in news magazines.

  • “Warning: Stunt driver on stunt track in stunt car.  Do not drive like this [except in Rome]”
  • “Warning: Medication may cause sniffling, itching, numbness in extremities, permanent paralysis, or death. [+ 31415928 more lines that no one bothers to read]
  • “Remember, drink responsibly!  [Also, be nice to your mom.  Put up the toilet seat.  Don’t be prejudiced.  Love a geek today.]
  • “Results not typical.  Your results may vary. [Let’s face it… 99.9999% of people on this diet don’t lose an ounce.  We just managed to find the one freak who had liposuction after taking our product.]

Completely useless, aren’t they?  Somehow I don’t think we’re gonna hear stuff like this from beer-bongin’ frat boys:
“Hey Sarah, I’m concerned about you!  I mean, Mr. Jose Cuervo insists that we drink responsibly, and I just don’t think you are!  Can I get you an orange juice instead?”
“Whoa, dude!  Didn’t you listen to that ad?  It said DON’T drive like this!  Come on, pull it back to 55 man!”

*  *  *

And then there’s the seemingly unrelated issue of corporate compensation.
Forbes magazine lists some of the worst (most unproductive) CEOs and notes their compensation, including:
– Richard M Kovacevich, Wells Fargo, $72.04 million
– Edward E Whitacre Jr , AT&T, $49.01 million
and, brace yourself:
– Barry Diller, IAC/InterActiveCorp, $295.14 million (over half a BILLION dollars in the last 5 years, and ranked as one of the 15 most unproductive CEOs in the entire survey)

Which raises some questions:

  1. If compensation is intended to reward good performance, why are so many outstanding leaders (in the public and private) sector making five figure salaries while many total losers and ruthless-jerk CEOs are making more than 100x their salary?
  2. If we also assume that compensation is intended to incent good performance, shouldn’t we ask: do any humans really *need* $xx millions per year to get out of bed and work hard for the day?  Given that there are, absolutely without a doubt, an enormous number of extremely intelligent and hardworking and respectable folks who would do wonders for a company at $x milion or even $xxx thousand per year, well… WTF?!

Admittedly, I’ve kind of stacked the deck in my above examples a bit:  I mean, really, who loves their bank?  Or their phone company?  Personally, I find AT&T to be one of the most unpleasant, irresponsible, and customer-non-centric companies out there, but then hey, maybe that’s just me ;-).

*  *  *

Never fear, I have the answer to both problems… a way to get rid of moronic speed-read or 1pt font disclaimers while effectively shaming the grossly overpaid CEOs who perform worse than would Paris Hilton in a dramatic Shakespearean theatre role.

In another article, Forbes complains that trying to do anything about CEO compensation is likely to either be unsuccessful or backfire, perhaps resulting in a further crapification and obfuscation in shareholder reports.  But my idea wouldn’t have that problem.

Ready for it?  Replace the disclaimers with two required placements of Consumer and Stockholder Truth:

  • On every TV, radio, and print advertisement, the following must be sanely presented: “Last year, the [company-name] CEO made $78 million, median [company-name] worker: $11,000.  Stock has decreased 17%.”
  • On every stockholder quarterly / annual report, the company must present a “Compensation and Performance Summary” in one page, in normal font.  It’d include exactly what the CEO and other key executives took home, how the company did (particularly in its sector), and so on.  No forward-looking B.S., no big long charts.  Just a one page, ideally-bulleted summary.  I mean, hell, I don’t have time to read 50+ page shareholder reports, do you?  Didn’t think so.

Okay, so I’m kidding a bit with the first part of the idea.  But seriously… don’t you think that there’d be some hell to pay for CEOs who were (effectively) publicly outed as greedy and incompetent asses?  And, in an ideal world, also some come-uppance for the lazy or thoughtless jerks who approved their compensation structure?  My favorite is when *especially* bad CEOs are finally shown the door… and then they get a $100 million dollar severance package or the like.  Often times, this happens around the same time that free coffee is eliminated from break rooms and lots of minimum wage folks are let go with two weeks pay.

*  *  *

Having seen what I perceive to be more sane and more humane economic structures and practices in place in Europe and Australia, I admit that if I could wave a magic wand and force exec pay to be no more than 10x worker bee pay, I’d do it.  But yeah, that’s never going to happen here in America.  So instead, I’d love to see executive losers simply get tomato’d in the public eye and forced to resign in shame.  Can you imagine, for instance, an “American CEO Idol” combined with a “CEO Gong Show” and “CEO Survivor” where CEOs have to defend their performance and keep others happy or get voted out of the cushy work world?  Not quite sure how instructive it’d be, but it’d sure be entertaining :-D.

*  *  *

Related BLADAM entries:
The Free (and Stupid) Market

10 comments… add one
  • Hawaii SEO May 6, 2007

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  • Zack May 7, 2007

    Sports Organizations have salary caps .. why doesn’t Corporate America?

    CEO’s are equivically hitting the Lottery on an annual basis.

    If there was an imposed salary cap and lets go so far as to tax both the CEO and the company heavily if they exceed the cap. It might allow for there to be such a thing as a living wage on not a minimum wage within these companies. The extra taxes could be used to fund national health care for the non-insured.

    But hey, I have a better idea. Let me run IAC/InterActiveCorp for 1 year .. I’ll even do it at a cut throat rate for lets say $45.14 million/year which will save the company 1/4 billion my first year!!! If I don’t do well . I’ll resign with no severance package. I think I can live off of $45 million comfortable for the rest of my life. It’s a win win!

  • Margret May 10, 2007

    If only it were that easy.

  • Adam May 13, 2007

    gah, I’m gonna cry!  For the first time, my own blog ate one of my comments… and an uber-lengthy one as well.  And no, it’s not in the spam queue.

    Sadly, I have to finish some stuff (and call the Mom, of course!), but I’ll try to circle back here and repost my thoughts.  This is a great reminder to me (and others) to copy any form input—especially lengthy form input—into Notepad before hitting that submit button {sigh}.

  • Siim Jun 27, 2007

    I totally agree with Margret. If only it were that easy.

  • Jim Oct 30, 2007

    My favorites are the displays in the airports that show you what you cant bring on the plane. They kindly display chainsaws and cans of gasoline. Yeah, like I was going to bring my Husqvarna with me today… I guess I better discard it next to this guys bottled water.

    Jim

  • Lynne Oct 30, 2007

    I saw this article today and it reminded me of this thread… What a joke… This guy loses 8 Billion during his tenure and gets 160 million buy out…
    http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/Investing/Extra/Lose8BillionPocket160Million.aspx

  • Jose Mar 25, 2008

    In any organization if they are giving recognition of success for any plan to CEO’s.
    than they need to willing for taking obligation of bankruptcy of any projects. Still it’s really terrible matter to push them from resigning their position.

  • Online Shopping May 21, 2008

    Every one need to takes own responsibilities as his post.
    Success and failures every one deserves that person called C.E.O.

  • allergy Jun 19, 2008

    Yes After all CEO is responsible for bad or good things.

What do you think?