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PARIS, THE NEW NORMAL? — Diana Johnstone files an in-depth report from Paris on the political reaction to the Charlie Hebdo shootings; The Treachery of the Black Political Class: Margaret Kimberley charts the rise and fall of the Congressional Black Caucus; The New Great Game: Pepe Escobar assays the game-changing new alliance between Russia and Turkey; Will the Frackers Go Bust? Joshua Frank reports on how the collapse of global oil prices might spell the end of the fracking frenzy in the Bakken Shale; The Future of the Giraffe: Ecologist Monica Bond reports from Tanzania on the frantic efforts to save one of the world’s most iconic species. Plus: Jeffrey St. Clair on Satire in the Service of Power; Chris Floyd on the Age of Terrorism and Absurdity; Mike Whitney on the Drop Dead Fed; John Wight on the rampant racism of Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper;” John Walsh on Hillary Clinton and Lee Ballinger on the Gift of Anger.
Self-Dealing Corporate Payouts

Lee Raymond’s Unconscionable Platinum Parachute

by RALPH NADER

Exxon Mobil reports that it is sending retiring chairman Lee Raymond off with one of the most lavish executive compensation and retirement packages in history–an estimated $398 million in total.

This unconscionable windfall cannot be justified by any serious measure of Raymond’s performance, especially since the company’s record-breaking $36 billion annual profits last year had more to do with the Mobil merger, refinery bottlenecks, politically-driven tax breaks and geopolitical events than it did with managerial effectiveness.

The self-dealing that leads to payouts like Raymond’s exposes the failure of corporate boards to protect the interests of shareholders. The conflicts of interest held by compensation consultants and interlocking relationships with other boards of directors make a mockery of any claim to independence. With their rubber-stamp boards, top executives essentially pay themselves, while rendering their shareowners powerless.

The SEC should require that all companies above a certain size put their top executives’ compensation packages up to a proxy vote. If the shareholders believe such pay fails to match performance, they should have a means of signaling the need for restraint.

In fact, this reform has been required of British companies since 2002, one reason British CEOs at similarly-sized companies earn little more than half what their American counterparts do.