The SEC watched its enforcement branch shrink with every appropriations bill.
Fifteen years on, we have a deeply entrenched corporate culture that holds that our captains of finance are entitled to vast compensation, regardless of the outcome of their management for stockholders, the company as a whole and society at large. Today, Wall Street investment bankers, acting on that entitlement, take their bailout checks to the bank and the taxpayers to the cleaners.
If we are to avoid seeing the sorry spectacle of executives looting millions as the corporations they headed go bankrupt again, there are a few simple steps we could take to discourage it.
Next, require that stock be held for at least six months after the option has been exercised and the stock bought, to prevent dump and run actions on the part of CEOs.
Then, give the Securities and Exchange Commission some legal and administrative muscle to go after corporate fraud. Give them the money to hire an army of forensic accountants to prosecute white collar crime. (How's THAT for a jobs program!?)
Finally, we can get rid of the idea that corporate executives are entitled to massive pay packages, regardless of the outcome of their management. They aren't that special. They are as human as you or I, subject to the same kinds of lapses in judgment, the same self-serving delusions. It's just with them, when they screw up, the world feels their pain. And they go to the bank.
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