FINDING WAYS TO PERK UP CEO PAY

As we're learning the hard way, CEOs are not quite the brilliant cockadoodledoos they wanted you and me to think they were.

As we’re learning the hard way, CEOs are not quite the brilliant cockadoodledoos they wanted you and me to think they were.

To be fair, however, let’s admit that the top honchos are astonishingly creative and bold, in one special aspect of big business leadership: goosing up their own paychecks. Yeah, yeah, I know that the salary and bonuses of corporate chieftains actually dropped six percent last year, now averaging a mere $10 million. But, hey, these people are nothing if not clever, so while their pay sagged, they quietly reached into the goodie bag and increased the number and value of perks they receive by seven percent.

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Associated Press surveyed some 300 major corporations and found that the median value of such executive perks as chauffeured limousines, free personal use of the corporate jet, and memberships in exclusive clubs has risen to $170,000 last year. That’s more than three times the income of most families!

Chauffeurs and jets turn out to be the least of it. Take Ray Irani, CEO of Occidental Petroleum. Not only was he paid $30 million last year, but he also was given $400,000 to cover the cost of his financial planners. An Occidental spokesperson explained that this perk was beneficial to the corporation because it helped Irani “keep his complete attention on the company’s business.” What, is Irani so flighty that he can’t focus on his job without worrying about his personal money? Maybe so, but – come on – with a $30 million paycheck, couldn’t he afford to cover them out of his own pocket?

Meanwhile, some corporations are concerned that these pricey and princely bennies look bad to the public. Not to worry, though – that problem can be handled by another executive perk that’s increasingly popular with CEOs: bodyguards.

“As pay falls, CEOs get more perks,” www.yahoo.com, May 1, 2009.

“2008 Trends in CEO Pay,” www.aflcio.org, May 2009.

“Household Income Rises, Poverty Rate Unchanged, Number of Uninsured Down,” www.census.com, August 26, 2008.

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