Experts tell us that America's painful recession is "probably over." That's swell — but how's your personal economy going?
If you're not sure, check your underwear. Mintel, an economic research firm, considers sales of men's undies to be a bellweather of the economy's ups and downs. When men are short on cash, claims Mintel, they don't buy new shorts as frequently. The firm expects men's drawers to drop 2.3 percent this year.
However, you can bet that one small group of men skew the underwear indicator way upward. These are five CEOs who've been named the "Highest Paid Worst Performers of 2008." Despite doing a poor job, these executives can still afford to strap on a new pair of silk shorts every day!
The Corporate Library, a watchdog group, analyzed the pay of 2,000 top executives to cull out these "winners": Abercrombie & Fitch, BJ Services, Comcast Corp., International Paper and Nabor Industries.
Check Abercrombie's Michael Jeffries, for example. Despite a stock price that lagged behind other clothing retailers during the past five years, Jeffries has a contract that guarantees his pay will always be higher than the compensation earned by 75 percent of his rivals. Last year, therefore, he pocketed $72 million in pay, including a $6 million "stay bonus" to keep him from leaving the company. Come on — why would he ever leave a sweet deal like that?
Sweetest of all though, is the deal that Eugene Isenberg gets from Nabors Industries, an oil-drilling company. He is paid not on performance, but on a percentage of the corporation's cash flow. Thus, even though Nabors' stock price plummeted 51 percent last year, Isenberg hit a gusher with $79 million in pay.
To learn more about executive compensation excess, contact faireconomy.org.
Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go with the Flow, on sale now from Wiley Publishing. For more information, visit jimhightower.com.