December 13, 2005

Excerpts: The Battle For The Soul of Capitalism - Part XXI

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 8:08 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Extraordinary Compensation for Ordinary Performance

The record is clear that investors have a big stake in executive compensation. A study by Morgan Stanley’s former chief strategist Steve Galbraith found that “one way [for CEOs] to rake in the dough has been to preside over a company with an underfunded pension plan, large layoffs, and mediocre stock performance.” (While Mr. Galbraith does not argue causality, more extensive studies may well make such a case.) Analyzing the 500 companies in the S&P Index, he found that the six companies whose CEOs made more than $50 million in 2002 provided average annualized returns in 2002–3 of minus 40 percent, compared to minus 3 percent for the remaining companies in the Index.

Galbraith argues that “the root appeal of capitalism revolves around extraordinary reward potential for extraordinary performance, [but] what is less understandable are extraordinary compensation packages handed out for ordinary performance.” Thus, despite wildly errant growth projections, these seemingly failed executives (or terrible forecasters) were rewarded with increases that took their average annual compensation to new heights—an amazing failure of prudent governance by corporate directors. Paraphrasing Churchill, never has so much been paid by so many to so few for so little.

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About Dylan Schleicher

Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.