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2002 Top Ten: Fat Cats

Light Reading
News Analysis
Light Reading
12/27/2002
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2002 can't end fast enough for the thousands laid off as a result of the segment's worst year ever. For a precious few, however, there's a lining on that downturn cloud -- and it's made of pure gold.

Fat cats flourish, and they're adding padding aplenty despite the lean times. Oh, there's been some industry outcry over excessive executive enrichment (see Fat Cat Pay Roils Readers). But it's come to little so far. A slap on the wrist here, a federal hearing there, a sprinkling of lawsuits -- all have barely dented these folks' gilded shells. Indeed, some are doing better than they were in the boom times.

Now, we're not saying all these riches aren't earned; most fat cats came by their loot in perfectly legitimate ways. In fact, there may be plenty of good reasons for top execs' millions of dollars in bonuses, even if they are often obscure.

In any event, the industry has no one to blame but itself for the excesses that follow. So without further ado, we present Light Reading's take on the telecom world's most notorious fat cats, listed in descending order of rotundity:

No. 10: Assorted U.S. government recipients of telecom largesse
Granted, a few mil a year hardly a fat cat makes. But considering the stunningly slow progress of telecom legislation stateside, we think the $86 million corporate sponsors have sent to legislators since 1989 is far too much for far, far too little (see Telecom Dollars at Work in Washington).

No. 9: John Roth
Talk about working the system. The ex-CEO of Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) has made more since retiring in November 2001 than he did during his last months of running the company, even though his active tenure saw Nortel's market cap value halved (see Nortel's Roth Rakes It In). For the year that ended in November, Roth was on paid leave, earning about $1.5 million while dawdling at home. With plenty of time on his hands, Roth was able to divest himself of a hefty stack of Nortel shares (see Roth Selling Out? ).

No. 8: Dan DiLeo
Speaking of cushy retirements: After a 32-year career culminating in the job of executive VP of the optoelectronics group of Agere Systems (NYSE: AGR/A), technologist Dan DiLeo retired at an annual salary of $440,000. He also owned over one million options on shares of Agere stock, which would have turned into Agere common shares when the company separated from Lucent in June 2002 (see Lucent Completes Agere Spinoff). DiLeo's severance entitles him to "an additional $16,042 per month until April 1, 2004, and up to $10,000 to furnish and equip a home office," according to Agere's proxy statement. Apparently not ready to drive shuffleboard pucks, DiLeo has joined the board of MegaSense Inc., just to keep his hand in (see Agere Fat Cat Boards MegaSense).

No. 7: Joe Nacchio
As the high-flying CEO of Qwest Communications International Inc. (NYSE: Q), Joseph Nacchio earned close to $1 billion in 2000 alone. In 2001, he got $24,374,091 as part of a long-term incentive plan -- on top of his regular pay and bonuses (see Qwest: Ciao Nacchio?). As the year 2002 rolled in, his pay was set to rise from to $1.5 million from $1.2 million on January 1, 2002. As of March 1, his bonus was set to increase to 250 percent from 200 percent of his base salary. After a long period of criticism (see Qwest: Ciao Nacchio?), Nacchio resigned in June 2002 (see Notebaert Takes Out Nacchio). If his old employment agreement held up, he would have gotten double his annual salary on the way out.

No. 6: Tellium execs
Back in the spring and summer of 2000, Tellium Inc. (Nasdaq: TELM) gave loans to a bunch of its executives to exercise their stock options. By July 25, 2002, the balance of loaned money, with interest, was $32.9 million (see Tellium Execs in Trouble?). Some in the firm proposed to forgive the money due, but the board vetoed the suggestion, leaving a slew of fat cats on short rations. Stay tuned: This one's not over yet.
No. 5: Jack Grubman
Jack was the man at Salomon Smith Barney, earning a reported $20 million annually for his bullish reporting on carrier stocks. After angry shareholders took him to the cleaners, accusing him of purposely misleading them to further his company's interests (see stories too numerous to list), Grubman withdrew under a cloud but clutching a severance package said to be worth $32 million (see Jack Grubman Goes). Newspapers reported last week that he's agreed to a $15 million fine and will stay away from financial analysis forever. So now he's got only $17 million plus to play with. Oh, what a shame.

No. 4: Michael D. Capellas
The latest CEO of WorldCom WorldCom Inc. (OTC: WCOEQ) doesn't have any telecom experience (see Michael D. Capellas and Capellas Leads the IT Invasion of Telecom). But he's in line to get $5 million for his first year on the job, including a $1.5 million base salary and a $2 million signing bonus, plus potential performance bonuses worth $1.5 million, according to bankruptcy filings. Capellas will also get another $18 million in restricted stock in the newly reorganized WorldCom when it emerges from bankruptcy (sometime in 2003, the company expects). Hope it's enough, Mike!

No. 3: Gary Winnick
When the going got tough, the founder of Global Crossing Holdings Ltd. withdrew to his $40 million Beverly Hills mansion, hired a media rep to answer questions about how he could have made off with close to $1 billion, and left employees and common shareholders with nothing (see GlobalX: The Burst Bubble). Ongoing investigations apparently have called forth the best in Winnick, though, and this fall he emerged to offer $25 million of his personal funds to help employees whose 401(k)s were crushed in the carrier's collapse (see Winnick: I'll Cough Up $25M). That will have to do, at least for now.

No. 2: Bernie Ebbers
When the flamboyant founder of WorldCom Inc. (OTC: WCOEQ) resigned amid one of the year's highest-profile financial scandals (see WorldCom Goes Boom, WorldCom Files for Bankruptcy, and Ex-WorldCom Execs Charged With Fraud), he'd managed to score over $400 million in company loans, along with a princely annual salary and millions in bonuses. The jury's apparently still out on whether he'll get to keep it all. So far, though, that Mississippi possum's plenty plump!

No. 1: Lucent execs
Claiming the top spot for the second year in a row (see 2001 Top Ten: Fat Cats), Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU) again demonstrated its ability to richly reward a chosen few while maintaining one of the industry's highest pink-slip percentages (see 2002 Top Ten: Pink Slips). According to SEC filings, CEO Patricia Russo got a guaranteed $1.8 million bonus, in addition to a base salary of $1.2 million. She's also gathered millions in stock options and restricted stock shares (see Lucent Fat Cats Gorge in 2002 and Post-Bubble Arrogance).

Besides Russo, Lucent paid at least four other execs to stay on through Russo's transition (she started work in January 2002). As disclosed in Lucent's proxy statement in 2001, Robert C. Holder, COO, received a retention payment of $4.5 million; William T. O’Shea, executive vice president of corporate strategy and business development, got $3.08 million; Frank D'Amelio, executive vice president and CFO, received $3 million; and Richard Rawson, senior vice president and general counsel, got $2.31 million to stick with the company through April 2002. They also received full vesting of their current outstanding stock options and restricted stock units.

Now, what's that ya said about a bubble?

— Mary Jander, Senior Editor, and staff of Light Reading

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gardner
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gardner,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 12:57:27 AM
re: 2002 Top Ten: Fat Cats

Can anyone be surprised that they play tricks to avoid paying any taxes, yet turn around and expect the U.S. government to send the youth of America to fight and die for their profits?

That's what is happening, folks, and no one is saying a single damn thing about it.


Well, you just did and so have others. The first step is to talk about it. People have to be educated about what is happening in this country. People have to realize that the electorate, the ones who haven't given up already, are being manipulated by the elites who stand to gain from the corporate malfeasance. The steady drumbeat of militarism is working its magic. People believe that war with Iraq is not only inevitable but that it is unpatriotic to say that it is wrong. The cable news programs, controlled by the same elites that rule through corruption of the electoral process have effectively propagandized the American people into accepting the coming war in Iraq. With programs like "Countdown Iraq" they have desensitized the public to the horror of war and made it all glitzy and high tech. People will forget that behind all those high tech weapons is the same death and suffering that war always brings--whether it is fought with stone axes or "smart" bombs.

Is there hope? Of course there is! The very fact that people are talking about it here and seeing the connections between corporate corruption and corporate war mongering is a healthy sign. Get the world out folks. America doesn't have to spiral down: it does have to stop trying to rule the world. It is inevitable that our influence around the world will ebb if we continue our arrogant assumptions but it is not inevitablee that we suffer in our economic lives. We can get back to honest business. We can get back to what we do best: being a non-violent beacon of freedom, openness and tolerance, and yes, an economic powerhouse. Economic freedom--capitalism is a good thing but like anything else it has to be balanced with other goods if we are to thrive. A strong American military is necessary for our freedom but it must not be abused by people who surreptitiously manipulate the levers of power for their own gain. Our political system contains the antidotes for this poison but we have to use them. Use your first amendment rights to speak out against the corruption, usurpation, and misuse of our government and economic system to benefit the few at the expense of the many. Educate your friends and relatives. Educate yourselves. Speak out at every opportunity. Question authority. Question those who would manipulate the natural patriotism of the majority to take advantage of them. Help others to see what is so clear. Don't give up or give in. Speak up!
gardner
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gardner,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 12:57:27 AM
re: 2002 Top Ten: Fat Cats

Life; it's like this: poor people go to jail, and rich people pay fines. Get over it.


One wonders how well you will get over when your turn comes. ;-) Isn't it amazing how the people who have a stake in the current corruption or at least have been manipulated into believing they benefit from it can comfort themselves with the thought that it is "just the way things are". Don't be fooled folks. Every time in the past when a corrupt system was challenged the challengers were taunted with the charge of being naive. They were told that feudalism, selling indulgences, etc. (fill in the system that needed reform) was just the way it was and that they should just get used to it. It was a silly argument then and it is a silly argument now.
gardner
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gardner,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 12:57:23 AM
re: 2002 Top Ten: Fat Cats

Maybe you want your concept of perfection in life. Based on your post, I can tell I need to inform you of a few things:

And if what you were about to tell us were true I'm sure it would be very valuable. . . ;-). Sheesh! This is exactly what I have been talking about. You need to question the myths that underpin the current problem in America. Merely spewing them back as an explanation is not helpful.



The poor go to jail becuase they have to commit crimes to pay the bills,

No. The poor go to jail because they can't afford the fixers of modern society: clever lawyers. The rich steal far more than the poor and they don't have your explanation ("because they have to commit crimes to pay the bills") as an excuse.


There are no easy answers. Everthing you do impacts something else. Take from one (or many) and give to others (or one).


This is a false dichotomy fostered by those who benefit from unquestioning support of the status quo. The alternative to what we have now (corruption, lack of transparency, manipulation of the majority toward war by a minority in control of the media) is not redistribution of wealth in the hamhanded way of 20th century communism. Of course if someone has stolen their money it must be returned. People like the criminals involved with the Enron and Worldcom frauds must be punished and forced to make restitution. NO ONE should be silent until that is accomplished. But, that is not all. We must, by using the techniques that those of us with more modest means have at our disposal, undermine the power of the elites. The internet has the potential to do for us living today what the printing press did for the people of Gutenberg's day. It revolutionalized the distribution of power in society. If we have learned anything today it is that the new currency of power is not necessarily money--it is information. And the beauty of the internet is that it fosters the decentralization of that power. Take stock and use your power. One very interesting feature of the internet is that the traditional elites (generally made up of those trained in law and accounting) are statistically less likely to understand it than we are.
rjmcmahon
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rjmcmahon,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 12:57:21 AM
re: 2002 Top Ten: Fat Cats
Gardner; Do you believe the problem is corporate and elites setting our destiny or do you think they may be just playing an ill defined, manmade, system which maximizes their bank accounts?

It's my understanding that over 50% of the US economy is driven by our housing. Those individual houses, all leveraged on 30 year mortgages, are maximized by the public deployment of free access to roads. Those roads require us all to own cars. Those cars need energy to move. 62% of that energy comes from foreign soils.

The irony, that most on these boards need to reconcile, is that while popular economic theory exclaims that oil must remain cheap and abundant for our economy to thrive, on other hand these same economists say bandwidth (or the ability to distribute information) must be consolidated and congested so prices can be increased allowing the market to function. It makes no economic sense that energy must be abundant and knowledge must remain scarce. Though I digress.

Back to my original question, is it really the elites or is it the ignorance of the masses which is determining our fates?

The reason I ask is, if it is the elites than their replacement is a solution, is fairly straight forward, and is relatively painless. But if it is our ignorance, then I don't see such an easy path, freeing us from things like our oil dependency, and too many Nation States depend on that stable oil supply. (Unfortunately, it looks like the Native Americans vs European migration all over again.)

So what worries me most is that new generations are not born with the wisdom of the deceased, but the do get access to those military tools of destruction that are left behind. And this Iraq policy looks like nothing more than a continunation of the failed 70s policies (remember the Shah and that regime change), which implies that we have already changed the elites at least once.

If public ignorance really the root of all this evil than how does placing the blame squarely on the elites really help?

PS. Agreed 100% that the justice system is rigged in favor of the rich. Unfortunately, all public goods are rigged in this way and our collective wealth is trending towards zero in my opinion.
gardner
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gardner,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 12:57:20 AM
re: 2002 Top Ten: Fat Cats

Jeeze dude, this isn't Dickensian England, for heaven's sake. I'd say about 2% of crime is committed to "pay the bills." Those guys doing car jackings in East LA, hey, it's not Jean Valjean stealing a loaf of bread to feed some starving kid.


Get off it. Stop straining gnats and swallowing camels. As bad as carjackings are, they are not as destructive to the entire system as the theft that went on at Enron and Worldcom. Who benefits from your associating theft with poverty? The rich who steal--that's who. The folks who brought us Enron and Worldcom benefit from your warped view of what is really dangerous to society. Get this: In the grand scheme of things carjacking is an annoyance. It will not make the economy go in the toilet. Bankjacking and Corporationjacking is what destroys the trust that is necessary for capitalism to work. Make no mistake about it. The handfull of thieves at Enron did more harm in one year than ten thousand carjackers could doin a lifetime.


But this notion that the entire American economy is corrupt is nonsense.


True but irrelevant. The fish is rotting from the top down and failure to realize that fact and do something to mitigate it has the potential to corrupt the rest of the economy. If we continue to comfort ourselves with the status quo by saying it is ok because it isn't all corrupt yet then we are part of the problem.


How many companies have really been involved in "corporate scandals" of a serious magnitude? Maybe a dozen? Out of thousands of companies? It's really not that big a deal.


Wrong. It is a big deal because it affects people's faith in a system that needs credibility to work.


The "bubble" didn't burst because of corruption. It burst because stupid government regulations ensured that the broad-band world we all expected couldn't happen.


Actually, bubbles don't burst because of either of these things. They burst because bubbles have to burst eventually. The "broad-band world we all expected" was not realistic as it was sold by the bubble-heads (TM). The internet and internet commerce is experiencing a growth that would make any other industry extremely happy. It's just not doubling every quarter. And that is a good thing. Things that grow too fast die. Ask Monsanto--they make Roundup--they'll tell you. ;-) Or nail a dandelion with it and watch what happens. Too much growth is just as bad as too little--if not worse.
gardner
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gardner,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 12:57:19 AM
re: 2002 Top Ten: Fat Cats

There were crooks, there always are. However, they are a very small minority and will be prosecuted.


When? Meditate on this question: How long has it been and how many Enron guys are in jail?

We all bought it all.
Speak for yourself.

So, why not expend our collective brainpower in the constructive pursuit of rebuilding the industry as opposed to less noble causes.
Less noble causes? Speaking out against corruption is ignoble?
rjmcmahon
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rjmcmahon,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 12:57:19 AM
re: 2002 Top Ten: Fat Cats
The handfull of thieves at Enron did more harm in one year than ten thousand carjackers could doin a lifetime.
____________

This is worth repeating. These Enron thieves not only stole from stored wealth, including states' general funds, florida pension funds for teachers, etc. ,etc. Skilling and his boys stole our opportunities by poisoning the establishment of honest markets for energy and information. And now today a senior struggles to find a viable revenue stream to support the final years as all utilites have been painted by the Skilling brush of fraud.

In my opinion, Kenny-boy, including his cronies, and their theft is orders of magnitudes worse than all the telecom greed and fraud, combined.
rjmcmahon
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rjmcmahon,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 12:57:18 AM
re: 2002 Top Ten: Fat Cats
Meditate on this question: How long has it been and how many Enron guys are in jail?
_________________

This is the question in my mind. Assuming that the obvious cancer which has infected our political system has not metastasized, then is it that the public justice system has been ill funded by the masses or is that the elites have all the power and make all the rules in their favor?
rjmcmahon
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rjmcmahon,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 12:57:16 AM
re: 2002 Top Ten: Fat Cats
Less noble causes? Speaking out against corruption is ignoble?
________________

Speaking out against corruption is very noble. Acting with integrity is even better.

But we all should be careful not to follow the lead of Henry Ford Senior. He made an enemy out of the bankers, who were jews, and some suggest it was his antisemitism that seeded the ideology for Hitler.

The irony for Ford is that he was originally a man who believed in a peaceful society, but his factories and his city had to be converted into a war manufacturing machine. That machine needed labor, and so mass migration from the colored south occurred while the white boys were away fighting an ignorant war.

Today, a hundred years later, it looks like Ford's own intolerance of the rich bankers came back as prejudism against the poor. And this intolerance for others had a lot to do with the destruction of his own city.

A real shame not to know what is the enemy, in my opinion.
gardner
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gardner,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 12:57:16 AM
re: 2002 Top Ten: Fat Cats

Gardner; Do you believe the problem is corporate and elites setting our destiny or do you think they may be just playing an ill defined, manmade, system which maximizes their bank accounts?

Two comments here:
1. you overdramatize and therefore build a strawman argument by characterizing what I said as corporate elites setting our destiny. It is not that simple. Are they manipulating the system? Yes, of course. Are they setting our destiny? Of course not. Why not? Because we are able to do this: speak up.
2. Of course a tiny elite is playing an ill-defined, manmade system which maximizes that bank accounts. And it is at the expense of the rest of us. And no we are not going to be silent.
Next question.



Back to my original question, is it really the elites or is it the ignorance of the masses which is determining our fates?


Again we have a false dichotomy here. It is both. The economic elites are influencing the less educated to their advantage. And yes, that is possible because of ignorance. That is why we have to speak up. Ignorance is not incurable.


If public ignorance really the root of all this evil than how does placing the blame squarely on the elites really help?

It is not a question of blame as much as it is causality. We must know what is happening and why before we can fix it. It is in the interests of the elite to propagandize for war. Back in the Reagan and BushTheFirst years constraints on media ownership concentration were relaxed and it was justified with a "free-market" argument (although in reality anti-monopoly regulation is necessary for a free market). The result today is that a handful of people own the instruments with which consensus is manufactured (to use a Chomskian concept). They have used this concentration of ownership to build consensus on a destructive path toward war that will benefit them disproportionately.


The part that scares me by the way is that when the inevitable reaction comes it will throw out the baby with the bath water. I believe in a (truly) free economy. I believe that a well regulated capitalist economy is the most efficient engine of economic wellbeing. Unfortunately the selfish interests of the few undermine a system that has worked very well. A very cynical group of well-connected businessmen have manipulated people's understanding of the world in a way that is counterproductive to the long term prosperity of the nation. If we deserve the freedom and properity that we think is our birthright then we will do our best to stop them. We cannot allow them to wrap themselves in the flag as they destroy the nation that that flag stands for. Yes, it is true that if the majority weren't so easy to manipulate with flags and patriotic speeches about "axes of evil" things would be better. But no it won't help to just throw our hands up and say: "These guys are stupid" and blame the "masses" to use your rather dated Marxist language. We have to help those who do not realize that they are being manipulated to see the man behind the curtain and stop listening. How? By talking to people. By getting our story straight and passing it on to everyone we can. Via the internet, the grocery store, the coffee shop, you name it. Anywhere you can put a bee in anyone's bonnet about this mess.


PS. Agreed 100% that the justice system is rigged in favor of the rich. Unfortunately, all public goods are rigged in this way and our collective wealth is trending towards zero in my opinion.


So DO something about it. Don't just give up and let the bad guys win. Take back your country. And you don't have to be violent to do it. As a matter of fact I think violence and even street protests are counterproductive to this goal of taking it back.

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