Four bits of, uhm, news from yesterday.
Footnoted.org Bought Out. First, word came of a buyout proposal from footnoted.org, the well-known website where Michelle Leder reports on executive pay and perks often buried away in their financial disclosures. Apparently, footnoted has been purchased by Microsoft's public relations firm. Under the terms of the deal Michelle will enjoy many of the perks she formerly reported on.
"In addition to...an undisclosed cache of cash, I was able to secure unlimited access to Waggener Edstrom’s corporate jet for the rest of my life, office space in Olympic Tower and the requisite tax gross-up," Leder says.
Our Favorite Yalie Is Not Hungry. Up in New Haven, the student body is having trouble adjusting to some drastic changes in the food service menu. One Yale student, however, is taking the changes in stride. “I should have no problem providing for myself because I’m a fully licensed agronomist and a master of ancient Tibetan irrigation techniques,” Aleksey Vayner told the Yale Herald. The paper goes on to reports that "Vayner also stated that the act of writing a 'gendered perspective on the Holocaust' gives him a unique mental preparation for facing the privations ahead."
CEO Bill of Rights. Meanwhile, over at Motley Fool, they've discovered a government reform campaign that even DealBreaker might get behind: sticking up for the rights of those CEOs.
"We're proud to announce that we've been working tirelessly with key members of the U.S. Congress to draft H.R. 401, The CEO Bill of Rights Act of 2007. This is important and necessary legislation because America's CEOs are under attack. Our corporate leaders -- all in, making a precious few hundred times the average worker today -- are being labeled greedy, self-dealing scoundrels. And who stands up on their behalf?" the Fools ask.
We just wish that they hadn't announced this yesterday. People are totally going to think it's a joke.
The New 'Katie Couric' Rule. Finally, the SEC announced on Friday that it was expanding the proposed 'Katie Couric' rule which would require companies to disclose their top three earners. More disclosure equal more knowledge for markets, right? So why not expand it to the top 100.
“From readers of People Magazine to those who are now assembling their fantasy baseball league rosters, regular Americans will appreciate the ready access they’ll have to this new data,” SEC spokeswoman April Fuhrust says in a press release.
“It will show compensation levels not only for Wall Street traders but also movie stars, professional athletes and network anchors,” she says.
SEC economist “Anita Moore-Profit” explains the metrics the SEC used to settle on the 100 number. “It’s a round number. Something people can remember," Moore-Profit said.
The full SEC press release after the jump.
Breaking news: Footnoted.org sold! [Footnoted.org]
University-wide YSFP cancelled starting Fall ’07 [Yale Herald]
The Motley Fool Pushes CEO Bill of Rights Legislation [fool .com]
SEC's April Fuhrst attempts lighten regulation [Financial Times on MSNBC]
EMBARGOED UNTIL RELEASED BY SOURCE 2007-1234
SEC TO PROPOSE REVISED ’KATIE COURIC’ RULE
Washington, DC, April 1 2007 - The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced plans to expand disclosure of how public companies compensate their highest-paid talent. Under the proposed new rules, disclosure will now extend to the top 100 people who make more than the CEO.
The Commission’s pending proposal to extend pay reporting to non-executive officers -- the so-called ”Katie Couric rule” -- had been limited to the top three people who make more than the CEO.
”The proposed changes will reveal a treasure trove of titillating information,” said SEC spokeswoman April Fuhrst. ”From readers of People Magazine to those who are now assembling their fantasy baseball league rosters, regular Americans will appreciate the ready access they’ll have to this new data. It will show compensation levels not only for Wall Street traders but also movie stars, professional athletes, and network anchors. Corporate payments to college athletes will be specifically included, so everyone will have better luck next year when they fill out their college basketball brackets.”
The Commission arrived at 100 as the appropriate number after extensive economic analysis. ”We received bunches of comments from all sorts of people who didn’t want their pay disclosed,” said the SEC’s Deputy Chief Economist, Anita Moore-Profit, ”so we knew there must be lots of them out there. We basically settled on 100 for convenience. It’s a round number. Something people can remember.” Simultaneously with the issuance of its economic analysis, the Commission took the unusual step of suing itself - both to save time, and to be assured of being on the winning side when the court rules.
The proposal to require pay disclosures for more people also includes provisions for real-time disclosure, which build upon the SEC’s commitment to interactive data.
”Since the payroll function in virtually every public company is now electronic,” said Edgar Philing, the SEC’s Assistant Chief Information Officer, ”there is no reason the SEC can’t receive the information about a bank deposit or withdrawal at the same time it’s made. So when the CEO’s paycheck is automatically deposited, ordinary investors could get an RSS feed on their laptops or handhelds alerting them to the news. The same would be true for the reporting of perquisites. Each use of an executive’s credit card would show up on EDGAR at the same instant.”
Real-time data input, in turn, would open up the possibility of instant comparisons among companies, across industries, and between people within a given company. ”We could immediately see which is the most popular car to drive among the nation’s highest-paid people, or what the best restaurants are,” said Rita Tennkae, Associate Deputy Director of the Division of Corporation Finance. ”This is information that people can really use.”
The opportunity to obtain data in real time could also offer an advance alert to investors that it may be time to sell a company’s stock. ”For instance,” said Sue Offen, Assistant Deputy Director of the Enforcement Division, ”if you notice the CFO is making late-night infomercial purchases, that might signal insomnia -- which in turn could mean troublesome issues on the company’s radar that are keeping the execs awake nights.”
Before voting unanimously to publish the revised proposal for public comment, the Commission devoted over 400 hours to so-called executive session meetings to reconcile the differing views of Commissioners. In the end, the sheer length of the debate among Commissioners led to some reluctant acquiescence.
”Chairman Cox pushed what is obviously a priority for him through hours and hours and hours of exhausting discussion, and months and months of proposal and re-proposal,” said Commissioner Annette Nazareth. ”Frankly, I don’t understand the reasons for this, but I can no longer remember my original objections,” she added.