Last month, Rochedale analyst Dick Bové sent out a note to clients that began with what he dubbed “some interesting stats.” Said stats were salaries of the New York Yankees’ top infielders (“not including promotional deals”!) versus those of JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon, Wells Fargo’s John Stumpf, Citigroup’s Vikram Pandit, and Bank of America’s Brian Moynihan. The baseball players’ compensation totaled about $80 million, the CEOs’ $65 million. Fair? Bové didn’t think so, noting that while the talentless hacks in the Bronx have won but single World Series in the last 10 years, the banks run by the aforementioned CEOs “impact virtually every American household” (and if pressed to, could surely bring home at least a few Major League Baseball championships).
“Clearly, society values the New York Yankees infield above that of the leaders of the banking industry even without a World Series ring,” Bové concluded sarcastically, shouting “nailed it” at Mr. Giraffe. Obviously, Bové is of the mind that it’s a crock how little these chief executives are paid considering all they do compared to noncontributing zeroes like Alex Rodriguez and Co. It’s unclear if the former head of MLB’s players’ union caught Bové’s riff or if not but last night he offered something of a rebuttal and, spoiler alert, he thinks Wall Street pay is bull shit.
Appearing at the New York University School of Law on Tuesday night to discuss the 40th anniversary of the first baseball strike and the rise of the players’ association, Marvin Miller, the 95-year-old former union head, spoke for 68 minutes and delivered a blistering criticism of corporate pay. He also said collusion by owners in the mid-1980s was worse than the Black Sox scandal in 1919 and claimed the first baseball commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, may have been a member of the Klu Klux Klan. “Let’s take chief executive officers of important corporations, or the stock exchange or Wall Street firms,” he said. “The typical way that compensation is set is for the board of directors, most of whom if not all of whom have been appointed directly by the CEO, decide what the CEO’s salary should be, or they have a committee, a compensation committee composed of board members.
“The first thing about that is that here you have a direct conflict of interest, because sitting on a board are executives of other corporations, and what they are doing is adding ammunition to their own quest for higher salaries. And it’s such an obvious conflict of interest that it’s awful. Of course they’re going to vote for higher salaries.” He said the directors are at fault because “they don’t pay for it. It’s paid for by stockholders, who have had no voice on what the salaries and compensation and perks of the chief executive should be.” He then compared the system to baseball, where the average salary on opening day this year was $3.4 million and the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez topped players at $30 million. “There always has been and is a rule that no contract of a player is valid unless it is signed by the franchise owner or somebody designated by the franchise owner in his place,” Miller said. “In other words, no salary is put on paper and becomes valid until the man who is going to pay for it, the owner of the franchise, has signed the contract. A better check and balance you can’t find anywhere.”
According to Miller, “the more democratic thing is to require the approval of a majority of the stockholders.”