Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What's Your Good Name Worth?- Price Points in PR

   You've probably heard that top executives with Transocean awarded themselves hefty bonuses- citing 2010 as "the best year in safety performance in our Company's history".  Transocean is the company that owned the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.  That rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 people.  Predictably, the safety bonus announcement generated a firestorm of negative publicity.

     Transocean later apologized for the "insensitive wording" in a SEC filing about the bonuses.  I just checked the Transocean web site- and found a news release announcing that Transocean's Senior managers are "voluntarily donating those safety bonuses to the Deepwater Horizon Memorial Fund."  I think that's a creative use of the word "voluntarily".  At least the bonuses, about $250,000, will go to the fund that benefits families of the 11 people who died.  If only those executives could donate to a fund that restores your reputation.

     What I don't get is how often I have to write the words "tone deaf"?  How could anyone think declaring 2010 a "safe" year was a safe move for Transocean?  Didn't they read the papers?  At what point do you say, "everyone hates us anyway, so we might as well get paid a bundle"?  If you look up the most infamous professions the oil industry is no doubt gaining ground on used car salesmen and attorneys.

     All this got me to thinking about executive salaries.  So I googled "executive greed".  I found a New York Times article that included a study by two professors, Lucian Bebchuk of Harvard and Yaniv Grinstein of Cornell.  According to Bebchuck and Grinstein:  from 2001 to 2003... (executive pay) totaled roughly 10 percent of corporate profits at public companies.

     I don't even want to know what 10 percent of corporate profits might total.  Let's just agree that it's an obscene sum of money.

     I also found an Amazon.com ad for a book titled- "Executive Greed: Examining Business Failures that Contributed to the Economic Crisis".  Ironically, the book is selling for $65. 

     According to CNNMoney.com's list of 20 top-paid CEOs  The 2010 winner is Philippe P. Dauman.  Dauman collected $84 million as the head of Viacom.  At the bottom of the top 20 list is Robert J. Stevens who made $19 million running Lockheed Martin.  Coming in at number 20 Stevens must be some kind of executive slacker.

     Has anybody noticed there was a terrible recession awhile back?  Millions of Americans are out of work- reporting zero earnings.  Yet, at the same time all these CEOs amassed small fortunes.  I'm not going to rail about inequity.  I'm not going to complain about ethics.  That's not the point.

     I'd think some of these brilliant top executives would exploit the pay issue- and turn it into a public relations bonanza.  They could cut their pay and tell customers they're lowering prices until better times return.  Remember when Lee Iacocca set his salary at one dollar?  A few years later, after Chrysler rebounded, Iacocca was the top-paid CEO.  Just saying...

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