5: John Chambers
Earlier this year, with lawmakers mulling over legislation to limit CEO pay, a high-powered New York business group convened a “Task Force on Executive Compensation” to show that corporations could clean up their own act.
The final report from this task force, issued this fall, asked companies to commit themselves to executive pay that’s “fair” and “clearly aligned with actual performance.” Among the first half-dozen companies to make that commitment: Cisco, the Internet networking giant.
Just days later, a federal filing revealed that Cisco was awarding “discretionary bonuses” to its five top executives for the fiscal year that ended this past July. Why “discretionary”? The company couldn’t give the execs regular bonuses since all five missed their “performance” targets.
Cisco says the five execs delivered “solid financial performance” while facing “tough economic challenges.” Not that solid. Cisco has laid off over 1,500 workers since the economy turned challenging. Cisco CEO John Chambers, for his part, has pocketed $232.7 million over the last five years.
Back in 2000, Cisco reigned briefly as the world’s biggest company, as measured by total share value. Then the dot.com bubble burst. But Chambers unloaded a ton of shares before the bubble popped — and cleared a $156 million windfall.
The janitor who cleaned Cisco’s executive suites that year, observed the San Jose Mercury News at the time, would have to work 8,653 years to earn what Chambers made in one.