Today’s edition of The Washington Post includes a surprise — an op-ed by William S. Lerach, the long-time securities class action lawyer who pleaded guilty two weeks ago to a federal conspiracy charge. The piece lambastes Corporate America for paying "loser CEOs" huge sums after they run their companies into the figurative ground. The govment gets a tongue-lashing too.
Exhibits A and B consist of E. Stanley O’Neal and Charles O. Prince — the departing chiefs of Merrill Lynch and Citigroup, respectively. The former’s going-away gift came to about $160 million (on top of $100 million in regular compensation), and the latter’s reached the centi-million-dollar mark also. Together, they presided over $20 billion in market value losses at their companies. See Subprime Time for Merrill Lynch and Citigroup.
Mr. Lerach can’t resist contrasting the legal system’s toughness on shareholder lawyers like him with its laxity towards Wall Street executives such as Messrs. O’Neal and Prince. Blawgletter can hardly blame him. But we note that Mr. Lerach keeps the whininess to a minimum while making a compelling case for more accountability by Corporate Titans, Captains of Industry, and Masters of the Universe.