June 19, 2006


Super-rich set sights on a really gross profit:
No one goes to jail for this stuff. Buy companies, merge companies, flip companies, reduce staffing, curtail employee pensions and other benefits - it's the American story of the last 20 years...

Exxon Mobil's former CEO Lee Raymond got a $357 million retirement package that included a payment of $98.4 million and stock and stock options. This comes for Raymond after several years of making more than $20 million, according to Forbes, and at a time of record profits for the company and record-high gasoline prices for consumers.

Do you think the people at Exxon Mobil Corp. are at all concerned about how this looks to the average schlemiel citizen?


As The Sun reported last week, the shareholders at the company's annual meeting in Texas overwhelmingly rejected resolutions to rein in compensation. (They also rejected two environmental initiatives and a proposal to add sexual orientation to the employee anti-discrimination policy.)

Hey, it's all part of American grotesque.

On some level, it still bothers me. But I don't get excited about it anymore because, other than a few prosecutions here and there, not much seems to be done about it. We've been pounded by decades of company downsizing for the sake of wider and wider profit margins, with corporations and the executives who control them more interested in the quick hit than long-term investment, with a political class that appears co-opted by the corporate class, and an utter disregard by both for public perceptions.

It was wholly remarkable to learn from a recent story by Sun reporter Laura Smitherman that Mercantile Bankshares Corp. chief Edward J. "Ned" Kelly III had turned down a $9 million windfall should the Baltimore bank be sold. He felt he'd been compensated enough already and would hardly be left empty-handed.

"People are frankly irritated at the big payouts people are getting," Kelly said. "I know this may sound silly coming from a corporate CEO, but I thought it was the right thing to do." Admirable.

But, in this crazy culture of ours, almost alien.

If there's a change in attitude about all this stuff, I certainly don't sense it coming. Most people I know are just resigned to it. And millionaires don't seem to be shy about piling up all the cash they can get while they can get it.


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