Evil Empires

April 04, 2011

I guess today is the easiest workday in history, if you happen to be a writer for The Daily Show.

If you haven't seen it, Transocean issued a proxy statement (whatever the hell that is) calling 2010 their best safety year ever and disclosing millions of dollars in pay hikes and salary increases for top executives.

I suppose I wasn't paying attention in previous years when Transocean projects killed more than 11 people and ruined even more of the world's most fragile ecosystems.

This story broke on Friday, and I really, truly think there was a conversation between a senior official at Transocean and a lady in the PR department making $40K/year (I'll call her Polly) who was responsible for writing the statement.

Evil Executive: Did you get that part about my big fat bonus in the proxy statement? I want to make sure my mom sees it. She always did like my brother better. Polly: Um, yeah, but do you think... EE: What about my raise? You covered that too, right. Polly: Yeah boss, but shouldn't we explain? EE: Explain Hell! We're rolling around in cash! This was our best year ever. Just last week I had the boys fill my hot tub with champagne just so I could feel those bubble tickling my bung hole. Polly: I don't guess I should mention that in the writeup. EE: I'd like to, but maybe mentioning my bung hole is going too far. The other execs would be jealous. Polly: What I really meant to ask is whether it's not a bad idea to call this our best year ever. EE: (blank stare) Polly: With that whole Gulf of Mexico thing, I mean. EE: Aw shit, I forgot. Even still, the number of broken bones is way down in East Texas. I continue to declare that this is our best safety year ever. No, wait. It's our best FUCKING safety year ever. And I want that in the proxy whatever it's called. Polly: Yes sir. Maybe I'll just omit the f-bomb. Should we mention the people who were killed? EE: People aren't pelicans, girl. Polly: I mean in the explosion. EE: No, I sent flowers to every one of those funerals. We've done our part. Polly: Okay, I should have this done today, but I was thinking of waiting until Friday to release it. EE: What for? My mom's only got so many days left, you know. Polly: Well, Friday is April 1, and maybe at least some of the people will think it's a goof.

Once upon a time, I believed in supply and demand as the great regulator. Good companies would thrive, bad ones would go out of business. Boards of directors make sure the executives stay on the up and up.

It's a bitter truth, but that notion is entirely incorrect. The past decade has taught me better. Boards heap millions on top of millions on CEOs while average workers are told that the economic downturn keeps them from getting a raise this year. Sure, they're free to move, but every company is the same.

Then the companies get to the point where they're "too big to fail," and the taxpayer is left bailing out banks and auto makers in the interest of saving our entire economy.

Meanwhile, corporate executives stay oblivious to all that goes on down here in the real world.