Thursday, May 31, 2012

Aliens and Corporate Governance

Too often lately, as I read the paper, watch and listen to the news, and talk to certain people, I feel like an alien, like I’m from a different world, a different planet altogether.  Perhaps you’ve had that feeling, too?  It’s very strange.  People speak English, dress normally, even talk about things and ideas I think I recognize, but in reality they’re speaking gibberish and what they’re talking about is so twisted as to be unrecognizable.  Perhaps you’ve experienced this, too?

For example, we have some men talking about their sisters, wives, daughters and other female friends, relatives and acquaintances who they supposedly love and care about, as if these women were stupid, incompetent sluts incapable of making decisions about their own bodies. It’s strange, since these men claim to be Republicans but in reality, they are Taliban Ayatollahs.  They claim to be for freedom, justice and equality for all, yet they would deny certain people the protection of our laws, justice and equality.

Another example, and there are too, many to include here, is Corporate Governance.  Corporations are allegedly governed by their share-holders at annual meetings.  This semblance of democracy is one of the justifications for allowing corporations all the power and leeway they have.  Here is the strangeness and unreality: we say it’s one share, one vote, but in actuality, it’s blocks of shares equal control; one share is meaningless.  Like so many aspects of our so-called democracy, corporate governance is rigged in favor of the large shareholders. Who are these ‘large shareholders’? 

Whoever they are, the large shareholders at Exxon Mobil just voted to boost their Chairman and CEO’s compensation package by 17% from its current $25.2 million a year—a year, one person $25.2 million a year, up by 17%!  (Of course the Chairman will be giving most of his increase to good causes like the Sierra Club, Common Cause and Planned Parenthood.  Not!)  Who are the people who voted for this?  What planet are they from?  Or, are they from this planet and I, the alien?

A paradox of this situation is that the pension funds of teachers, firefighters, police, unions and corporate retirees are usually the biggest share holders.  Do these folks really think one person should have $25.2 million +17% (I’m too lazy to do the math)? What planet are they from?  Or, are they from this planet and I, the alien?

I get that this is complex, but really, it isn’t that difficult to see that this is not right; is it?  The shareholders need to get real.  It has to start somewhere. I’m going to check into who’s administering my pension fund and let them know what I think.  Perhaps you will, too.  It will feel as if we’re aliens at first, but maybe, eventually, we’ll make them the aliens.

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