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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Executive Compensation (Part II): Paying Failure

In late September 2011, Léo Apotheker was fired after 11 months as CEO at Hewlett-Packard. As a reward, he walked with $13.2 million in cash and stock, in addition to a sign-on package worth about $10 million, according to the New York Times. A month earlier, Robert P. Kelly received severance worth $17.2 in cash and stock when he was fired as CEO of Bank of New York Mellon. Even his clashing with board members and senior managers did not obstruct his nice severance package. A few days later, Carol Bartz was let go as CEO of Yahoo with nearly $10 million in spite of the company’s poor performance. Back in April 2011, John Chidsey, the CEO of Burger King, had departed with a severance package worth almost $20 million in the fact that McDonalds had been outcompeting Burger King. Baxter Phillips, the CEO of Massey Energy, got a package worth over $34 million in spite of “presiding over a company barraged with accusations of reckless conduct and with legal claims stemming from one of the deadliest mining disasters in memory,” according to the New York Times. Unfortunately, the list goes on and on. Is this a system of pay-for-failure? Moreover, do chief executives, who seem to outward appearances to be almost exclusively motivated by what they can get in additional compensation, have too much leverage over boards, and thus over even the owners as well? If so, is corporate governance itself severely broken? I answer in the affirmative.

Eric Dash, “The Lucrative Fall from Grace,New York Times, September 30, 2011.