Sunday, September 18, 2011

How American Corporations Plundered Employee Pensions

Wall Street Journal reporter Ellen E. Schultz discusses her new book RETIREMENT HEIST in this interview with How did many major American corporations plunder their employees' retirement funds? It wasn't complicated. It was surprisingly easy for them to do. First they hired expert help. Legal and accounting experts. Then they went to work. Read and share this interview. RETIREMENT HEIST is an important book.

"Think of pensions as a debt. If a company can reverse a debt, it can record it as income. And that income is the same as if they got it from selling trucks or whatever it is the company sells. There were billions in promises to retirees for pensions and healthcare and death benefits and life insurance, and the companies figured out that if they cut or eliminated them altogether then they could get those billions in profit -- and even use them for executive compensation."

But what are promises? What are obligations? Why do large profitable companies steal pension funds? Because they can, and their executives instruct them to do so. They are rewarded for doing so.

Remember, a corporation is properly called a "limited liability corporation". In a legal sense, in a purely capitalistic sense, they are formed and operated to avoid obligations, to evade responsibilities, to figure out ways of delivering as little as possible for as much money as possible. "Innovation" often involves devising ways to give poorer, cheaper, delayed and/or non- service for as much as they can charge. Companies that do this are admired for "outcompeting" their competitors, and their shareholders are the envy of the shareholders whose companies have more scruples.

Not all corporations behave this way, but without regulations to keep the game fair the ones that do cheat have a competitive advantage.

This is happening more and more because consulting companies and corporate leadership pow-wows and business schools have taught business leaders to ignore two of the three loyalties corporations have, the loyalty to the customer and to the employee, and to put all effort and dedication to pleasing the third group––the owners and shareholders. Corporate executives usually belong to this group. When possible the loyalty is confined to the executives themselves, leaving shareholders holding the bag.

Labels: , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home