The Clinton Foundation’s OTHER Ethics Problem—And An Ethics Trainwreck Update

clinton_foundationEven if it weren’t being used for what looks like influence peddling…even if the foreign contributions to it didn’t create a textbook “appearance of impropriety,” which is prohibited for a Secretary of State…even if Hillary Clinton’s unilateral destruction of thousands of e-mails makes her surrogates’ (and imagine: one of those surrogates is an ABC new show host, and the network sees nothing wrong with that) argument that there’s no “smoking gun” evidence of wrongdoing a shining example of gall for the ages…there is another ethics problem with the Clinton Foundation, one that is beyond reasonable debate, and one that even the most shameless Clinton acolytes won’t be able to deflect by attacking the messenger.

It’s an unethical foundation, by well-established non-profit standards, and that has nothing to do with politics. Continue reading

Do the right thing? Naaaa.

Business executives regard this as a gross and unfair exaggeration. It's time for them to prove it.

Nabors Industries Ltd. (NBR), the world’s largest oil-drilling companies, will pay outgoing CEO Gene Isenberg $100 million in cash as a result of provisions in Isenberg’s employment agreement. Isenberg is 81, and has led Nabors since 1987.

Jeff Dietert, an analyst at Simmons & Co., an energy investment bank in Houston, wrote his clients yesterday that “We believe the compensation to Mr. Isenberg is excessive,” noting that handing over $100 million payment “for what we view as essentially retiring will be offensive to some.”

May be excessive? Offensive to some?

Here’s what I would hope would be going through Mr. Isenberg’s mind about now: Continue reading

Dear AIG: I’m Not Going To Be Able To Keep Criticizing “Occupy Wall Street” For Destructive Class Warfare If You Act Like This.

Pelican Hill...where wealthy insurance executives can spend taxpayer funds like it was Monopoly money!

American International Group Inc. (AIG), the huge insurer—too big to fail!— that is now majority-owned by the U.S. after a 2008 bailout of $85 billion, has resumed its arrogant, irresponsible habit of living like sultans on the money of taxpayers, many of whom are getting kicked out of their homes and who can’t find jobs.

Back in October 0f 2008, the House Oversight Committee nearly had a collective stroke when it discovered that, just one week after the federal government bailed out AIG because it was too vital a part of the shaky world financial markets to let go belly-up as it richly deserved, company executives went on a wildly-expensive retreat to a luxury resort. The executives “spent nearly $500,000 on manicures, facials, pedicures, and massages,” among other things.  Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) was incredulous, and he wasn’t alone: Continue reading

Ethical Quote of the Week: Angels Pitcher Jered Weaver

Is enough ever enough?

“How much more do you need? Could have got more, whatever. Who cares? If $85 million is not enough to take care of my family and generations to come, then I’m pretty stupid.”

—Los Angeles Angels pitching ace Jered Weaver,after signing a 5 year, $85 million contract to stay with Angels.

Weaver hardly signed for chicken feed, but his statement should be heeded by greedy athletes and corporate executives alike. After next year, he probably could have demanded another two or three million dollars a year or more from the highest bidder for his services, in exchange for leaving a team and a city where he is appreciated and comfortable, putting additional pressure on himself, and using funds that otherwise could pay the salaries of many lower paid club workers who might end up with no jobs at all. Continue reading

How the Lack of Ethics Cripples Democracy, Reason #2: Corporate Executive Greed


"Let's see...that's one schilling for Cratchet, 280 for me..."

The average compensation for chief executives of the 500 largest U.S. corporations is going up again.

According to Governance Metrics International, the average compensation for the CEOs, including salary, bonus and benefits plus the exercise of stock options, the vesting of stock grants and retirement benefits, was just under $12 million in 2010, up 18 percent from 2009. As Washington Post business writer Steve Pearlstein observes in his column this week, if you believe this is justified by market forces and common sense, “then you must also believe two things: First, that none of these guys would do the same job for a nickel less. Second, that the value of the chief executive went up 18 percent last year while the value of average workers in their companies changed very little.”  “And,” concludes Pearlstein, “if you believe that, you are a fool and an ideal candidate for an open seat on an S&P company board of directors.” Continue reading

The A.I.G. Bonus Payments…Again

Here we go again.

A.I.G. is paying out another 100 million in “retention pay,” also known as eye-popping bonuses, which is certain provoke another round of cursing from the public and posturing by politicians. The question is whether it is unethical to pay these bonuses, and you’re not going to like the answer. I don’t like it much myself.

It is no. Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Week

“A lot of our folks have second and third homes and alimony payments and other obligations that require substantial current cash.”

—-A banker quoted anonymously by Stephen Brill in his essay, “What’s a Bailed-Out Banker Worth?” in the Jan.3  New York Times Magazine. The article discusses that financial industry’s rationale (or rationalizations) for its compensation culture.