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Tea Bag This: CEO Greed

__180x200_paywatch.jpg The faux tea party events Wednesday served many purposes for the wealthy Foxocrats who shamelessly promoted them, including distracting from the real perpetrators of waste: Greedy CEOs.

Even as the U.S. economy tanked, the median salary for CEOs of 200 large companies increased 4.5 percent to $1.08 million in 2008, according to a survey by The Wall Street Journal. Despite public outcry over private jets and other executive perks, companies kept plying executives with generous freebies. CEO perks went up, on average, 12.5 percent in 2008 to $336,248—or nine times the median salary of a full-time worker.

Corporations don’t only waste stockholders’ money. The CEOs of three banks that received money through the federal government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) remained on the list of 200 top-paid CEOs in 2008: Vikram Pandit, CEO of Citigroup; Kenneth Lewis, Bank of America CEO; and Richard D. Fairbank, CEO of Capital One Financial.

In fact, the top 10 TARP recipients collectively paid their CEOs a combined $242 million in total annual compensation. That averages nearly $25 million per CEO to run companies that might have gone bankrupt if not for billions of taxpayer dollars.

This is some of the data we’ve compiled for our 2009 AFL-CIO Executive PayWatch site, which we released this week. The following gems are among the 10 case studies included.

  • While retirees worry over the fate of Deere & Co.’s pension surplus, which is shrinking because of stock market losses, the value of Deere CEO Robert Lane’s retirement income increased $5.5 million in fiscal 2008 to $22.5 million. Lane and other senior executives participate in not one but three different pension plans.
  • SunTrust Bank, which received $4.9 billion from the federal bailout fund, wants shareholders to approve a mega-grant of $7.7 million in stock options for James Wells, its chairman and chief executive officer, even as investors have lost billions.
  • Corporations are giving generous contracts to top execs while fighting workers’ freedom to form unions by spending millions to oppose the Employee Free Choice Act.
  • Workers who are laid off in these tough economic times are lucky if they receive anything more than their last paycheck. But Richard Bond, who retired as CEO of Tyson Foods in January, stands to collect more than $14 million in “golden parachute” severance payments.

The site includes a special section on runaway CEO pay and the Wall Street bailout and offers a user-friendly database where you can find out CEO pay. And in the spirit of the guy who sold Bernie Madoff dolls in a kit that included golden hammers to smash the statues to bits, we have a fun little e-game, “Boot the CEO!” where you can aim golden boots at the money bag-toting CEO.

Ultimately, of course, the union movement is all about taking action. So at our PayWatch site, you can send a letter to Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), chairmen of the House Financial Services Committee and the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, respectively.

Click here to let them know we’re counting on them to draft legislation that truly strengthens our financial regulations and begins curing the disease that has infected our economic system.

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Tula Connell

Tula Connell