Strategic CIO // Team Building & Staffing
Commentary
6/18/2009
08:32 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
Commentary
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Global CIO: Should CIO Compensation Be Capped By The Government?

It seems inevitable that the Obama administration will seek to cap executive compensation across the board, including CIOs, and not just for companies bailed out by taxpayers.

"Do you think limits should be set for CIO pay?" -- a BusinessWeek reporter, June 11, 2009

With the federal government's unprecedented incursions into the private sector accompanied by a tub-thumping chorus of level-the-paying-field screechers, it seems inevitable that the Obama administration will seek to cap executive compensation across the board and not just for companies bailed out by taxpayers.

That means CIOs -- that means you. Are you having fun yet?

Maybe you've been trying to ignore this latest Kafka-style development involving socialized compensation, hoping that it remains just some hazy nightmare that's happening somewhere else to someone else but won't affect you in the real world. I know what you're thinking: "C'mon, man, get real -- when it comes to business insight and fiscal responsibility, the federal government couldn't find its backside with both hands and a map -- and they are going to tell me how much I can or can't get paid? That'll never happen, at least not in this country."

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Well, while I couldn't agree with you more philosophically, the evidence, unfortunately, points to a very different and very scary conclusion. As I blogged about the other day, the so-called business magazine known as BusinessWeek posed that question above after listing the 2008 compensation packages for the five highest-paid CIOs in the United States.The BusinessWeek reporter who posed that question was clearly offended that those five top-paid CIOs earned base salaries and total compensation considerably higher than the average pay package for CIOs. Look at the question again: "Do you think limits should be set for CIO pay?"

Most businesspeople would probably think, "I'll bet they made more because they achieved more, they delivered more, they performed at a higher level." After all, isn't that how it's worked in this country for 200 years? But now -- in a matter of months -- we have growing numbers of supposedly informed people rushing to the absurd conclusion that what's needed is "fairness" in the forms of government-imposed caps on the compensation of private-sector executives, absolutely including CIOs. Where did this thinking come from? Who dreamed up this lunacy?

Also: In a recent news story, The New York Times gushes giddily over the looming prospect that sometime soon those dirty conniving capitalist dogs working for companies that didn't take so much as a nickel from the federal government will be brought to heel as well:

The Obama administration's sweeping new proposal to restrict executive pay is likely to be a humbling exercise for seven of the nation's largest companies, which have received billions of dollars in federal assistance to survive the economic crisis.

But for most other companies, the plan is expected to have only a marginal effect on pay practices for now [emphasis added].

Get that last point? "For now"! Maybe the bureaucratic masters of compensation feel the need to fatten up all you greedy, scheming, unfair CIOs and CFOs and CEOs and COOs a bit more before chopping them down to size.

And then you get high-profile media properties like BusinessWeek (I suspect it's profile will drop quite significantly if it continues with the socialist propaganda) flogging that same, tired, class-envy nonsense about discrepancies in earnings, and highlighting anomalies like Hewlett-Packard CIO Randy Mott's $24.65 million pay package in 2008 without making any effort whatsoever to try to determine what Mott achieved to merit that type of pay.

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