The Ten Greediest Americans of 2011

1) Mark Pincus: The Zynga online gaming goliath, wants it all. Money and power. Pincus had spent the previous four years prior to 2011 building up Zynga. The Pincus personal net worth? Forbes put that at $2 billion.


In March 2011, Pincus sold off a chunk of his Zynga shares and cleared a neat $110 million.

This lucrative sale in no way loosened the Pincus lock-grip over Zynga. The Harvard MBA had structured the company’s stock to make him the only owner of Zynga’s “Class C shares,” stock that has 70 times more voting power than Zynga’s regular shares. Elsewhere in the high-tech industry, special shares typically carry only ten times the voting power of regular shares.

But then in the fall of 2011 things started unraveling.


High tech start-ups typically attract talent by offering shares of stock in their new concern, and Pincus had done just that with Zynga. But Pincus had apparently concluded, with the big IPO pending, that he had given away too many shares.


In early November 2011, the Wall Street Journal revealed that Zynga management had demanded that various employees “give back” their stock “or face termination.”

Follow-up news reports soon reinforced the image of Zynga as more shark tank than romper room of inspired gamers.


The New York Times described a “messy and ruthless” Zynga workplace chock-full of “loud outbursts from Mr. Pincus, threats from senior leaders, and moments when colleagues broke down into tears.”


Also, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the federal watchdog over Wall Street, had told Zynga to stop using certain “non-traditional accounting measures” that could mislead investors.


Industry insiders were also starting to question Pincus’ supposed strategic business genius. The online future of gaming, analysts pointed out, rests in the mobile market. Other companies in that market were eating Zynga’s lunch.


And those other companies wanted nothing to do with Pincus. Several, including the maker of Angry Birds, rejected Zynga’s offers to buy them up, fearing that “Pincus’ hard-driving personality and iron-fisted control” was going to make keeping talent a constant uphill battle.


Early in December 2011, amid the torrent of negative news, Pincus and Zynga signaled that the company would be asking no more than $10 per share in its upcoming IPO. That put the company’s total value at about $7 billion, only a little more than a third the estimated value that had floated around earlier in the year.


Pincus, our greediest American of 2011, still insists he’s only creating a “meritocracy” at Zynga. The question he can’t answer: What has he  — or anyone, for that matter — ever done to merit a billion dollars?


2. Don Blankenship: Massey Energy . In May 2011, West Virginia state investigators found Massey Energy directly to blame for the 2010 blast that left 29 miners dead at the company’s Upper Big Branch coal mine. Massey CEO Don Blankenship’s management team, probers charged, had nurtured a “culture bent on production at the expense of safety.”


Federal regulators agreed. They found “systematic, intentional, and aggressive efforts” to flout basic safety regulations. Under Blankenship, Massey managers kept two sets of books, one accurate for internal use and another fake for regulators.


Says the top federal mine safety official: “Every time Massey sent miners into the UBB Mine, Massey put those miners’ lives at risk.” That risk taking paid off handsomely for Blankenship. He pocketed $38.2 million from 2007 through 2009, after $34 million in 2005, and retired December 2011, with a $5.7 million pension, $12 million in severance, another $27.2 million in deferred pay, and a lush consulting agreement.


Blankenship could still face criminal charges. But he’ll probably be back in the mine business. The mega millionaire retiree has signed Kentucky state incorporation papers that identify him as the president of a new company that calls itself the McCoy Coal Group Inc. Hateful bastard!


3) Larry Ellison: Top exec at business software giant Oracle. Ellison collected $77.6 million for the fiscal year that ending May 31, 2011. That piece of change added less than two-tenths of 1% to Ellison’s $39.5 billion personal fortune, the world’s fifth largest.


Why does Oracle, at this point, bother ladling still more loot on Ellison? His continuing rewards, says the Oracle board compensation committee, rest on a “subjective evaluation of Mr. Ellison’s performance, the unique contributions he makes to Oracle as its founder and various other factors.” Among those “various other factors” may be the annual upkeep of the at least 15 personal residences Ellison owns.


4) Alan Mulally: Took the Ford Motor CEO reins in 2006. Over his first three years, Ford lost $30 billion. Over his last two, Ford has gained back $9.3 billion, and that gain has become cause for corporate celebration — and a windfall for Mulally. In March 2011, Ford handed the chief exec $56.5 million in stock and then, a month later, announced that Mulally last year pulled down an additional $26.5 million in annual pay. That amounted to 910 times the pay of entry-level Ford workers. They had been making, ever since a 2007 concessions pact, just $14 an hour.


5) Lloyd Blankfein: Awhile ago, Goldman Sachs chief thief Lloyd Blankfein told a British journalist he was “doing God’s work.” (OMG, just this utterance proves the dude is insane!) God apparently pays well. In 2007, on the eve of the financial meltdown banks like Goldman helped to create, Blankfein collected a $68 million bonus, the largest in Wall Street history. The year before, his bonus hit $54 million. In other words, Blankfein has done more than his share to help make New York one of the world’s most unequal cities. 


Blankfein’s total pay for the year 2011: $19 million about double his total pay the year before. In May 2011, at the Goldman Sachs annual meeting, Blankfein faced a shareholder resolution —brought by four groups of nuns — that would have initiated an investigation into whether executive pay at the firm rated as “excessive.” Blankfein didn’t seem to think that investigation would be a good idea. At the time, he held a stash of Goldman shares worth $527.6 million. Blankfein and his allies would go on to have the nuns’ resolution crushed in shareholder voting.


6) William Weldon: Johnson & Johnson — the world’s second-largest health care products company — has had numerous recall issues over the past three years. That’s one reason J&J sales have failed to increase the past two years, for the first time since the Great Depression. Jobs at J&J have fallen, too. The company has announced nearly 10,000 layoffs since 2004, despite $49.6 billion in profits the last three years alone. Could any of this profiteering, job cutting, and chronic recalling be related? Absolutely not, says Johnson & Johnson CEO William Weldon. He declared last year that J&J had no “systemic problem.”


That may be correct. Johnson & Johnson’s prime problem may be Weldon’s personal greed. In 2007, the CEO “restructured” the company and slashed J&J’s corporate quality control operation by 35 %. The next two years, a hiring freeze made replacing newly vacant quality positions almost impossible. These moves were soon paying big dividends — for Weldon. He took home $25.6 million in 2009. Then came the flood of recalls and assorted other scandals from kickbacks to illegal drug marketing. The Johnson & Johnson board response? The company dropped Weldon’s annual pay — to $23.2 million! (Bwaahahahahahahaha)


A special J&J board member investigative panel cleared Weldon and his management buddies of any blame for the company’s recall disasters. Explained the panel: “Senior management never issued any directives to the effect that quality should be sacrificed for production.” (Bwaahahahahahahaha)! Weldon also serves as chairman of the Johnson & Johnson board and, as such, has nominated a host of J&J board members to their current positions.


7) Doug Oberhelman: Lawmakers in Illinois, early in 2011, modestly raised their state’s corporate income tax rate to help fill a gaping state budget shortfall. That had the CEO at Peoria-based Caterpillar strongly “suggesting” that his Fortune 500 firm might have to exit the state.

Mused Caterpillar chief exec Doug Oberhelman: “I have to do what’s right for Caterpillar.”

And himself, too. In 2009, a year that saw only three US corporations lay off more workers than Caterpillar, Oberhelman took home just under $3 million. His 2010 paycheck: $10.4 million!

Caterpillar workers, meanwhile, have a new six-year contract that includes no wage raises and a big boost in health care premiums. Sweet deal for vampire squid Oberhelman.

Caterpillar seems to exploit tax loopholes as systematically as employees. From 2004 to 2009, the company paid Illinois income tax of only 1.04 % of its $30.4 billion in earnings.


8) Robert Iger: CEO of Disney. Bob became Disney’s CEO in 2005, and 2011 had been one of his best years. In January 2011, Disney announced that Iger’s annual compensation topped $28 million, a sweet 35 % increase over the year before. In October 2011, Iger picked up a new pay deal that extends his CEO contract into 2015 and adds on a cushy final year as Disney “executive chairman” — at $2.5 million — to help him make the transition into fantasyland retirement.


Not enough to make you happy? Well, also in fall 2011, Iger became the newest member of the Apple computer board of directors. He’ll get a six-figure tip for the gig. Happy, happy, happy. Unfortunately, some housekeepers who work at the hotels in Disneyland have been raining on Bob’s parade. They went almost four years without a contract because they refused to accept Disney demands that would force them to pay hundreds of dollars a year extra for health care. The hotel workers union pointed out that Walt Disney made 108 times what his housekeepers were making in 1966.


9) Michael Duke: The chief exec at retail colossus Wal-Mart. Duke takes home his $18.7 million the old-fashioned way. He squeezes workers. But sometimes squeezing just can’t get the job done. No big deal! He just moves the goal posts that determine his “pay for performance.” Duke became Wal-Mart’s CEO in 2009. Since then, he has ended “premium pay” for hours worked on Sundays, eliminated profit sharing, sheared health care benefits, and cut staffing so low that customers sometimes can’t find shopping carts because the store has no employees available to collect carts from the parking lot.


This understaffing may help explain why Wal-Mart’s “same-store sales” started tumbling soon after Duke took over as CEO and didn’t stop sinking until fall 2010. The same-store nosedive should have cost CEO Duke big time at pay time, since same-store sales accounted for 30 % of the factors that Wal-Mart used to calculate Duke’s bonus. But nooooooooo, all of a sudden in spring 2011, Wal-Mart’s board of director’s compensation committee eliminated same-store sales from Duke’s bonus calculations. The immediate result? Duke would receive $16 million in “performance” pay — despite Wal-Mart’s stunning same-store sales tailspin.


Duke’s total $18.7 million paycheck for the year represents 750 times the annual pay of a Wal-Mart worker making $12 an hour, working 40 hours a week. But some 75 % of Wal-Mart workers make less than $12 an hour and few Wal-Mart workers get 40 hours.  Sweet!


10) Paul Hoolahan: The most avaricious sports character works for a nonprofit. He is the chief exec. at the Sugar Bowl. The Sugar Bowl enjoys tax-exempt status. But Hoolahan took home just under $600,000 in 2009, the latest year with figures available; almost quadruple his $160,500 paycheck for the same job 13 years earlier. Hoolahan and his two top aides are skimming off $1 of every $10 the Sugar Bowl generates. At the same time, the Sugar Bowl is donating to charity only 20 cents from every $10 in revenue. In September 2011, one unreported “donation” came to light. The Sugar Bowl had spent at least $3,000 on political contributions to the governor of Louisiana, a nonprofit tax law no-no (and probably a criminal offense, but that’s OK, he’s a right-wing ass clown)!

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