By Bertram de Souza
President Barack Obama wants top executives from companies seeking federal bailouts to experience what it’s like to be common. So, the president is capping their salaries at $500,000 a year.
Yup, those top guns of Wall Street firms that are crumbling under the weight of mismanagement will certainly learn a valuable lesson — as they pull in only 10 times what the average family in the United States earns.
When the world was their oyster, the chief executive officers and others on the top floors were earning millions and arrogantly proclaiming that they were worth every dime.
Even after their companies were on their financial knees, these high fliers had trouble coming down to earth.
Take Wells Fargo & Co., for example. After officials had taken $25 billion in taxpayer bailout money, they booked 12 nights at the Wynn Las Vegas and its sister hotel, the Encore Las Vegas, according to the Associated Press. The two hotels are among the most expensive in Sin City.
The pricey junket is a Wells Fargo tradition. Previous years have included all-expense-paid helicopter rides, wine tasting, horseback riding in Puerto Rico and a private Jimmy Buffet concert in the Bahamas for more than 1,000 employees and guests.
The Vegas trip was canceled Tuesday after lawmakers on Capitol Hill heaped scorn on bank executives.
Then there is the ABC News report on the “five-day carnival-like affair” sponsored by Bank of America just outside the Super Bowl stadium in Tampa. According to ABC, the event, known as the “NFL Experience,” was 850,000 square feet of sports games and interactive attractions for football fans. The bank called it a “business proposition” and said it was part of its “growth strategy.” It was a multimillion-dollar event.
The network also revealed that Morgan Stanley, which laid off 5,000 employees last year and grabbed $10 billion in taxpayer bailout money, held a three-day conference for clients at the Breakers, a five-star resort in Palm Beach, Fla.
Even with the discount, the room rate was $400 a night.
ABC News quoted Congressman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., as saying, “For most people on my block, that would be half of a mortgage payment, a monthly mortgage payment.”
What will it take to give the top executives of troubled companies a dose of reality?
Easy: They should be required to have their next company event in the Mahoning Valley.
Hotel rooms are reasonably priced, but if they want to splurge, the big spenders can always ask for the room in the Hampton Inn in Austintown that presidential candidate Obama and his wife, Michelle, spent the night in.
The food in local restaurants is unpretentious, but if the CEOs need to eat exotic, they can always order pirogi (drizzled with white truffle oil?) and haluski. For breakfast, they can reserve the booth in the Yankee Kitchen Restaurant in Boardman that Obama and Michelle and vice presidential candidate Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, shared. The business leaders will be able to glare at the photographs on the wall of the man who publicly berated them for their spendthrift ways and forced them to live like paupers (among the ranks of the rich and famous, of course.)
And late at night, if these execs are in need of companionship, they can always get in touch with Skankalicious, one of the leading escort services in the world. A date with one of the Market Street beauties will be an experience like no other. A come-hither toothless smile trumps a sun goddess on the beaches of Brazil every time.
As for sporting events, the Valley has something that won’t be found in any other community: A $45 million hockey arena for players in the junior ranks. Yes, the Chevrolet Centre was built with taxpayer dollars for a professional hockey team, but since the demise of the Mahoning Valley SteelHounds, the arena is being used by the Mahoning Valley Phantoms, a junior hockey team.
The CEOs might even be inspired to pay for the naming rights of the sports/entertainment complex, given that General Motors has withdrawn its sponsorship of the facility.
“The Bank of America Centre” has a nice ring to it, while the meager cost should please President Obama.