Saturday, April 15, 2006

"It's entrepreneurial returns for managerial conduct."

So said Charles Elson, director of the John L. Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance at the University of Delaware, commenting on the extraordinary pay of Lee Raymond, who recently retired as CEO of Exxon Mobil. Professor Elson neatly dissected the economic disconnect between Raymond's pay and his contribution to the enterprise:
"Exxon was there long before Mr. Raymond was there and will be there long after he leaves. Yet he received Rockefeller returns without taking the Rockefeller risk."
One remarkable feature of his supersized compensation (the NYT calculated it to be $144,573 a day during his 12 year tenure) is that much of it remained undisclosed. He received $400 million in his last year with the company, including an imprssive $98 million pension. His 2005 compensation came to 6 cents per share.
It's difficult to imagine the economic justification for pay on this scale. Would the pool of candidates for the top job be diminished if the pay were only, say, $100 million over twelve years? What is the marginal benefit to Exxon for the difference between $100 million and $400 million? Did this inflated total result in enhanced performance on the part of Mr. Raymond?

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