As Eric Reguly notes at Globe and Mail, CEOs of US financial firms have had every incentive to drive up their company's stock price by taking risky, highly leveraged bets, knowing that their personal upside was rapidly rising stock options and their downside was a very rich severance package.
Lehman Brothers had built up a $2.5-billion bonus pool before it went bankrupt two weeks ago. Lehman CEO Richard Fuld took home $22-million last year in salary, bonus and options. Stan O'Neil left the CEO's office of Merrill Lynch in 2007 with a goodbye package valued at $161-million. In the same year, Merrill lost $8-billion and was rescued earlier this month by Bank of America. Martin Sullivan left AIG with $14-million in his pocket not long before the U.S. government propped up the insurance giant with an $85-billion loan. In 2006, the year before Bear Stearns went under, CEO James Cayne made $33.6-million.
Stewardship is the belief that whether you win or lose personally you have a moral responsibility to do what is right for the resources, whether a family, a company or a country, entrusted to your care. What has always bothered me most of about the incursion of winner take all attitudes into the public sector and the governmental sector, and even into business, is that we have lost the culture of stewardship. We honor Trump's Apprentice, and the finaglers who make their gain from a larger loss. In a culture of stewardship, or of honor, the figures above would refuse to take their severance benefits. They would consider the money dishonorably earned and repudiate it. Unfit to lead? No, now these figures begin, we can only hope, their journey from success to significance through philanthropy and atonement, if The Happy Tutor gets through to them.