February 23rd, 2012
12:54 PM ET

Letters to the President #1130: 'C.E.O no'

Reporter's Note: I write letters to the president all the time. It’s not part of my job description; I just do it. It’s not part of his job description to read them either. And to be honest, I have no idea if he does.

Dear Mr. President,

I read one of those articles this week that just makes heads spin for a lot of folks. Seems as if the head of AT&T made his board of directors somewhat unhappy by the way he handled…or rather failed to handle…that attempted takeover of T-Mobile. The whole arrangement seems sort of complicated, but it appears that because the deal did not go through and get federal approval, his company had to give T-Mobile about $4-billion dollars worth of cash and spectrum in the wireless airwaves.

And for this transgression, he was docked $2-million in pay. He still made about $22-million last year. But he didn’t get all the bonus money he was counting on.

Is it just me, or doesn’t this seem kind of crazy?

Look, I know that these are private businesses and if they want to behave as if they are completely daft, that is their right. But how is it possible that anyone considers this a punishment? Even if I were the richest human being on the planet, if someone who worked for me cost me $4-billion dollars, he would not only be fired instantly, but I would also go after him for a refund of every single dollar I paid to him during the year in question.

I mention all this, because all of you presidential types spend a lot of time hanging out with the rich and powerful (hey, let’s be honest: all that fundraising is not coming from checkout clerks at the grocery store) and I wish once in a while you would ask them about this sort of activity. Because leadership is not something that comes purely from elected officials. Leadership is something that societies must see across the spectrum; and when business leaders condone activity which seems to be so dramatically void of common sense, it undermines our sense of decency, fairness, and standards of conduct.

For crying out loud, how many regular workers do you suppose were fired in that same year for simply not working hard enough to earn their $50-thousand or $60-thousand?

Just a thought on my mind on this busy Thursday.


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