11 April 2008

PigMan of the Week Award

Thanks go to Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs for giving the markets some weasel-worded false encouragement Thursday morning that the credit crisis is "almost over." It helped to trigger a sucker's rally.

And "if we are in a recession, its a mild one." We'll put that one down in the books. In fact, we wish someone would take a look at your trading book.

Lloyd, who received about $70 million of compensation last year by some estimates, also said that shareholder votes on executive pay would "constrain the board and hurt the investment bank's ability to attract the best employees."

Lloyd, you get the "PigMan of the Week Award."

Goldman CEO says "say on pay" a bad idea
Thursday April 10, 2:24 pm ET
By Joseph A. Giannone

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Goldman Sachs Group Inc (NYSE:GS - News) Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein, who received about $70 million of compensation last year by some counts, said on Thursday that shareholder votes on executive pay would constrain the board and hurt the investment bank's ability to attract the best employees.

So-called "say on pay" initiatives, which allow shareholders to provide a nonbinding approval or rejection of a board's proposed pay package for senior executives, have become a hot topic among shareholder groups, pensions and other large investors focused on corporate governance issues.

In a spirited annual meeting held in a downtown Manhattan, a number of Goldman shareholders urged the board and investors to adopt an advisory vote as a tool to keep a lid on excessive pay. Advocates also argued the proposal would give shareholders a greater voice on an important matter, without binding directors.

Blankfein, in an extended response, expressed his concern that "say on pay" would limit directors in exercising their judgment.

Say on pay would "create a feedback loop. It would create a cloud, a constraint, a limitation on decisions that have been at the heart of what a board has done," Blankfein said.

The board, he said, needs to have the flexibility to weigh compensation packages and the market environment. He also expressed concern that decisions by board member could be judged by uninformed investors.

"Our compensation has been very well-correlated to performance," he said.

Goldman's shareholders apparently agreed, as the say on pay proposal was rejected, receiving approval by 43 percent of shares voted and 30 percent of shares outstanding.

Some speakers argued Goldman's compensation was enormously high. According to the proxy statement, Goldman's top five senior executives received roughly $250 million last year in salary, cash bonuses, stock awards and other compensation, excluding stock options.

For context, that haul was greater than JPMorgan Chase & Co's initial fire-sale takeover bid of $236 million for Bear Stearns Cos Inc.