From the Wall Street Journal via Stockholders Forum:
The credit bubble has burst. The economy is tanking. Investors in the U.S. stock market have lost more than $9 trillion since its peak a year ago.
But in industries at the center of the crisis, plenty of top officials managed to emerge with substantial fortunes.
Fifteen corporate chieftains of large home-building and financial-services firms each reaped more than $100 million in cash compensation and proceeds from stock sales during the past five years, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis. Four of those executives, including the heads of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and Bear Stearns Cos., ran companies that have filed for bankruptcy protection or seen their share prices fall more than 90% from their peak.
The study, which examined filings at 120 public companies in such sectors as banking, mortgage finance, student lending, stock brokerage and home building, showed that top executives and directors of the firms cashed out a total of more than $21 billion during the period.
Tom Eley on the World Socialist Web Site has an interesting take on the story:
It is perhaps a sign of the times that the Wall Street Journal, long a mouthpiece of US finance capital, would run a prominent article that questions the enormous personal fortunes built up by CEOs through dubious means even as their corporations sailed toward disaster. Running such an article aims in part, no doubt, to appease the rage of thousands of middling investors who have lost their shirts in the economic crisis.
In any event, the criminal methods of these CEOs, who have led their companies and American capitalism as a whole to the brink of ruin, do not derive from personal greed alone. In their criminality and nearsightedness the CEOs reflect, instead, the narrowing horizon and historical decline of US capitalism, in which the accumulation of extreme wealth long ago lost whatever connection it had to the creation of real value.
A similar thought occurred to me yesterday while taking care of holiday business around the house. The television was blaring in the background, featuring a woman blathering on about the economic turndown. In the process of multitaskingly furiously, my attention was not on the program, but suddenly I stopped in my tracks. My ears had picked up on the woman saying that when we finally learn to cut expenses efficiently, Americans will have extra money allowing us to “do what we do best — consume and borrow.” Consume — i.e. spend — and borrow. That being the base of the American economic system, it was a house of cards from the beginning.