Top Paid CEOs That Laid Off the Most American Workers
by Ryan Dube
Before I get into the hit list of CEO salaries that are at the very top of the compensation list, I wanted to contrast that with the state of the U.S. economy today.
I think that the comparison of just how wide the earnings gap has grown in the United States is an important factor in what is causing mainstream America to finally express its feelings of discontent with the current state of affairs.
According to CNN, the unemployment rate in December of 2010 – almost a full year ago – was 9.5 percent. About a year later, in September of 2011, the rate was 9.1 percent – virtually unchanged.
According to Marketwatch, the U.S. economy isn’t getting better any time soon. Economists believe that the economy will rebound in the next few years, but even then it will be a long and slow journey.
American Economy Stalls – Workers Suffer
Paul Ashworth, the chief U.S. economist for Capital Economics told Marketwatch in June of 2011 that, “It’s now pretty clear that the economy ran into a brick wall last month.”
In 2011, job growth stalled, layoffs continued, and overall, Corporations are demanding more out of workers while simultaneously freezing any pay increases and often increasing the worker’s share of health insurance premiums.
With Americans getting squeezed from all sides – between increased health care premiums, higher interest rates on credit cards as well as higher prices at the supermarket and gas pump – it comes as no surprise that Americans are getting fed up.
With all of the suffering, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect that even the men and women at the very top – the CEOs of Americas largest Corporations – are feeling the pinch as well.
Is that the case?
Well – let’s take a look, and then you can decide for yourself.
Top Paid CEOs that Laid Off Americans
The AFLCIO runs a watchdog site called Executive PayWatch, which lists the highest paid CEOs in the country. We compared that list to similar lists published by Forbes and CNN Money, and then compared those lists to the lists of the top corporations that have been laying off the most Americans.
What we’ve come up with is a hit list of CEO’s that earn the highest compensation, while subsequently taking the most money away from employees in the form of layoffs.
We call this a “hit list” because we hope it inspires activists to hit those CEOs with in-person protests right in front of their homes and offices.
#1 – Merck: In 2010, Merck – one of America’s largest drug companies, laid off over 50,000 workers in an attempt to reduce costs when it lost revenue from losing patent protection on its most profitable drugs.
This sounds like quite the tragedy, until you reflect that the pain wasn’t really felt across the board. Merck still managed to pay its CEO, Kenneth C. Frazier, 9.44 million in compensation in 2010.
#2 – Verizon: In the same year, after posting a loss in the fourth quarter of 2009, Verizon’s CEO tried to appease shareholders by laying off 13,000 employees. With such a tremendous cutting of costs, one would expect the company to stem the alleged bleeding by making everyone cut back – from bottom to top.
Was that the case? Well, Verizon CEO Ivan G. Seidenberg still received his tidy 18.17 million in compensation in 2010. Maybe he had to give up a speedboat or two?
#3 – Pfizer: After merging with Wyeth, Pfizer had a total inventory of 70 manufacturing plants across the country – and lots of willing American workers ready to get to work producing drugs for all of those elderly Americans out there.
However, the CEO of Pfizer thought that a good first step right out of the gate would be to lay off over 6,000 employees from those plants. In the same year, Pfizer CEO Ian C. Read got his whopping 17.4 million in total compension. Nice work Ian!
#4 – Hewlett Packard: In one of the most dramatic cases of inequity and unfair gap in compensation, Hewlett Packard laid off over 6,400 workers in 2009, after already laying off a crushing 24,600 workers in 2008.
CEO Mark Hurd subsequently received $24.2 million in compensation in 2009, before getting caught falsifying expense reports to cover up his relationship with soft-core porn star Jodie Fisher.
Keep in mind that American Express received a total of $3.39 billion in TARP funding (bailout money). Where did those tax dollars go? Apparently it went to CEO Kenneth Chenault, who received a tidy payout of $16.8 million in 2009.
When you compare these lavish incomes and luxurious lifestyles of these wealthy CEOs to the wealthy aristocrats of France in the 1700s just prior to the French Revolution, it is easy to see why the French citizenry eventually decided that they’d had enough of these “bourgeoisie”.
The question is, when will Americans realize that they are laboring under a the false assumption that things are fair and equal in America?
When will America finally rise up again and reclaim its place in the world as the land of the free?