To paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald, “CEO's aren't like you and me.” How else to explain the decision by Transocean CEO Steven Newman to split a year-end bonus pool of $898,282 with four other C-suite executives?
If the name Transocean sounds vaguely familiar, that's because they're the engineering geniuses who built the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that exploded in 2010, killed 11 people and caused the worst environmental crisis in history (think: BP oil spill).
Newman & Co. split the loot after proclaiming 2010 to “be the best year in safety performance in our company's history.” Can you imagine what the worst year must have been like?
After the bonuses were announced and an incredulous public recoiled in disgust, Newman swiftly backpedaled and cut the bonus pool to a mere $650,000. Now, that's more like it. This way, the five fat cats only pocket a little under $130k per cadaver.
As might be expected, the chief executive officer appeared suitably humbled by his heartless heavy-handedness and issued a statement (probably after being prompted to do so by his chief communications officer). He said: “The executive team made this decision (to take fewer dollars) because we believe it is the right thing to do. ”Huh? The right thing to do? How about not taking any bonus at all? How about starting a fund to pay for the college tuitions of the children of the dead workers? How about waking up to reality?
Imagine if Transocean had, say, built the World Trade Center complex or the Japanese nuclear reactors? The management team would be set for life.
Sad to say, Newman's behavior doesn't surprise me one bit. Fortune 1000 CEOs aren't like you and me. They're much closer in type to pampered, superstar athletes such as Barry Bonds, Brett Favre and Roger Clemens. They're surrounded by handlers, schedulers and sycophants, and made to believe they walk on water (a most unfortunate phrase in the case of the Transocean guys).
In fact, Newman's behavior reminds me of John Thain's whining after the crash and fall of Merrill Lynch. Despite overseeing the worst year in the Thundering Herd's history and being forced by the government to sell the firm to Bank of America, Thain still demanded a performance bonus of $25 million!
Is it any wonder the average American now lists CEOs right alongside lawyers and used car salesmen as the least respected profession?