CEO Paid $100M to Step Down, But Still Employed?

by Gerri Willis

A demonstrator holds a sign showing the pay of some corporate executives during an Occupy Wall Street protest in lower Manhattan in New York October 3, 2011.When it comes to executive pay, there is a loud and growing chorus of people who maintain that all CEOs make too much. You don't have to go any further than a local Occupy Wall Street protest to hear those complaints. I believe that any executive who boosts a company's bottom line - share price or sales - should be rewarded. I say more power to him or her. In this country, the reward is financial. As a shareholder, I'm happy to pay for success.

What I don't like is paying for is failure. And, we are seeing too much of that right now.

Take Eugene Isenberg - he's the outgoing 81-year-old CEO of Nabors Industries - an oil drilling company. He's been asked to step down from his post - though he'll remain Chairman.

Because of this "shift in responsibility", Isenberg will be paid a $100 million severance package - all despite the fact he's not even leaving the company.

How does he get so lucky?

It all comes down to the language in his contract - language which triggers automatic payment when he shifts jobs. By the way, he may end up getting another $30 million from that contract when all is said and done.

Now, I might be just jealous and not angry if it weren't for the following facts: Nabors stock is down 19 percent this year. It has underperformed the S&P 500 in one year, five-year and 10-year periods. The "hello, I must be going" bonus of $100 million is more than the company's entire profit for the third quarter.

But this is pretty much the way things have worked for Isenberg for years now. According to the group Corporate Library, Isenberg was the 5th highest-paid worst-performing CEO in the country in 2009!

  • Others on the list include Abercrombie & Fitch's Michael Jeffries - who took home more than $72 million in 2009 - after his company's stock sank!
  • James Stewart of BJ Services saw his company's stock halved in 2009 - but he took home nearly $35 million.
  • Brian Roberts of Comcast - a company lagging behind its competitors - took home almost $41 million in 2009.
  • The CEO of International Paper? As the stock fell 63% his company handed him more than $38 million.

Isenberg is not alone with his Golden Parachute either - former CEOs of Disney and Home Depot took home around $200 million each after their tenure was over.

But here's the thing - those guys actually left the companies!

Isenberg is just switching positions.

He's still going to be making millions in salary on top of his severance package.

We mention all the time how things would be better if government was run like a business. I still stand by that statement - as long as they don't use Nabor Industries as their model.

Occupy Wall Street: Going Pro?

by Gerri Willis

A flag made by Occupy Wall Street campaign demonstrators is seen in Zuccotti Park, near Wall Street in New YorkOccupy Wall Street is going pro.

You might have thought they were just a bunch of grumpy college kids who couldn't find a job -- but more and more they are starting to look like -- well, like the very corporations they despise.

Consider -- they now have property -- which can be hard to come by in pricey lower Manhattan -- a bank account with $300,000 and a bunch of committees and "working groups."

Let's break it down: The property is a storage space loaded with supplies -- all donated -- located a block from Wall Street on Broadway. They've stashed blankets, pillows, sleeping bags, cans of food, medical and hygiene supplies (no word on what that really means) plus some oddities like a box of knitting wool and 20 pairs of swimming goggles -- apparently to protect protesters from pepper spray. Occupy Wall Street is receiving 300 boxes of "stuff" a day from supporters all over the country.

The property comes gratis from the United Federation of Teachers. Naturally, we've already seen websites and other support from the unions for Occupy Wall Street.

Then there's the bank account -- and the money -- some $300,000 in cash donated through the movement's website and by people giving money in person at the park. You should know the group has parked its cash at a union-owned bank -- not one of the big money center banks they are protesting.

And, then, there's the "Demands Working Group" -- these protesters who meet once a week to try to figure out --well, why the group is protesting in the first place. So far the New York group seems to agree that jobs and civil rights should be part of the agenda but others say that even having an agenda would be a bad thing.

So there you have it -- people protesting evil corporations who have managed to attract capital, property and put in place a bureaucracy with no discernible product or goal! Only in America.

But that is where the parallels with Corporate America stop. Normally you'd expect to find some sort of charismatic leader inside an organization which has momentum like occupy Wall Street -- but it doesn't appear to have one.

Instead, the old radical thought leaders from the past keep cropping up -- like Saul Alinsky -- the '60s radical that transformed protesting and viewed Al Capone as a positive social force.

President Barack Obama has been accused of inspiring occupy Wall Street with his severe public condemnation of bankers and brokers.

Democrats, though, would do well to remember another protest movement -- the 1968 riots in Chicago during the Democratic National Convention. Thousands of protesters rioted setting in motion a wave of violence that ultimately led to Richard Nixon's election.

It is undoubtedly true that it's not clear where occupy Wall Street will lead, if anywhere. But the tacit backing of the group by Obama is a poor substitute for actually leading us out of our economic and political morass.

Because the President is not a disenfranchised college student. He's the leader of the free world. And he has a responsibility to set us on a better track.

Thousands of Workers Needed!

by Gerri Willis

Pres. Obama inspects a wind turbine blade at the Siemens Wind Turbine Blade Manufacturing Plant in Fort Madison, IowaThe jobs depression continues to plague this nation. If you're not unemployed yourself, no doubt you know someone who is. Fourteen million of us looking for work two years after the Great Recession. But there is a myth about this economy that I want to expose tonight. That myth is that it is impossible to find a job because there are no jobs. But guess what, it's not exactly true.

Manufacturers are struggling to fill thousands - yes thousands - of jobs!

A survey by Manpower Group found a record 52% of employers have difficulty filling positions. Thank about that - they can't find workers for the jobs they have.

On average, companies usually take seven weeks to fill job openings. But for some manufacturing companies it's taking more than twice that long! And I'm not talking a few jobs here and there.

Technology giant Siemens has over 3,000 jobs open all over the country!

According to the Labor Department - there were nearly a quarter of a million open jobs in manufacturing in August - up nearly 39% from a year ago!

If unemployment is so high, why are these companies struggling to find workers? Why aren't people lining up for a paycheck?

Simple: Many just don't have the right skills for the job!

Most of the hard-to-fill jobs are for skilled trades, technology, engineers and machine operators.

Back in 1980, math, engineering, technology and computer science students accounted for more than 11 percent of college graduates.

Thirty years later, the number is less than nine percent.

Students are choosing different directions despite the fact the numbers clearly favor these types of skills.

According to the Conference Board: One worker applies for every three of these types of jobs.

Compare that to roughly three people for every one job in sales!

And it's not like these jobs are the assembly line jobs you've seen depicted in the movies. You know 20 hour days, no pay, no breaks. In fact, many of these jobs are really high-paying ones!

Workers at low levels can make as much as $30 dollars an hour.

Annual salaries for engineers can reach the six figures in some cases!

That company, Siemens, I just mentioned - the average salary for their three thousand open positions, $89,000!

An aging population of skilled workers is adding to the problem - as with many industries retiring baby boomers are tough to replace.

It's also a potential sign of the future. That the jobs market isn't just in a downturn - it's completely changing.

Many companies are trying short-term solutions. But the only long-term one is to get America back into the manufacturing game!

We need to want to make things again - and we need to educate people enough to do it.

So this can serve as a message to all those younger people camping out on Wall Street: It's not "the man" keeping you unemployed. Maybe you're just not looking in the right places!

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