Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Will Executive Pay Limits Hurt Charitable Donations?

Today's Wall Street Journal contains a hand-wringing, teeth-gnashing article asking the question whether executive pay limitations in the Obama stimulus plan will hurt charitable donations: 

Americans gave more than $300 billion to charity in 2007, according to the most recent figures. Some of the largest gifts from that pot have come from wealthy Wall Street bosses.  Now nonprofit leaders, especially in and around New York's financial hub, are worried these big donors could feel squeezed further amid government edicts to limit pay packages.  The economic stimulus package President Barack Obama is expected to sign Tuesday includes a measure barring any firms that have received federal bailout money from paying top earners bonuses exceeding more than one-third of their total yearly compensation. The measure also empowers the Treasury Secretary to "claw back" previous bonuses in certain instances if they're deemed excessive. It remains unclear exactly how the rules will be implemented, raising questions about corporate America's future compensation practices.  "As long as there is uncertainty about what's going to happen with executive compensation, that could really hold a lot of people back from giving, and not just on Wall Street," says Melissa Berman, president and chief executive of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

BALDERDASH!  Ok, look.  I know that journalist adhere to a well defined set of ethics just as we lawyers and accountants do.  But I gotta say, this story strikes me as one of those "media plants" about which some editor might shoulda required the writer to do a litlte more homework on.  Let me see if I got this right.  If we don't let wealthy and apparently damned incompetent CEO's (you can't even get tenure with the record some of these guys have running their companies into the ground, and tenure is virtually pro forma these days!) make more that $500,000 per year (that is one half of one million dollars per twelve months, mind you), then maybe they won't drop a dime or two in the salvation army bucket next Christmas?  Give me a break!  If we didn't waste so much money on their gold plated bidets, maybe there would not be so many nonprofit organizations trying to fill so many basic human needs. 



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