Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

CEOfail: Frank Stronach.

“This is a corporation that finds itself in financial distress due to recklessness and greed, a lot of these people should be fired, not awarded a bonus. This is horrible. It’s outrageous.” President Obama

Amidst a global economic meltdown in which millions have lost their, homes and hope – corporate greed continues.

Even though I believe in capitalism its crystal clear that the guys and gals that got us into this mess still don’t have a clue.  That’s right – I’m talking about executives who do not care/understand the implications of taking large bonuses without regard to what it will do to the economy as a whole and are certainly a major factor in getting the world into this mess.

As many Canadians nurse their post-New Year’s Eve hangovers and ponder what further economic storms await, Canada’s top corporate executives can take some comfort in knowing they have already earned as much as the average worker will earn in all of 2009.

A new analysis by the left-leaning Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives concludes the country’s richest corporate executives will have pocketed an average of $40,237 by (January 1, 2009) 9:04 a.m. Friday morning.

“By the time your computer has finished booting up on your first day back after the New Year’s holiday, the average CEO would have already banked what took the average Canadian worker an entire year’s worth of work to earn,” the report states.

“Many of the top 100 include Canada’s big bank CEOs, who recently received billions in federal government bailout money to purchase mortgage loans.”

Prepared by economist Hugh Mackenzie, the report finds the top 100 CEOs of publicly traded corporations averaged more than $10 million in pay apiece in 2007, the last full year for which figures are available.

That kind of money would buy 44 high-end Porsches or five $2-million condos.

The collective billion-dollar bonanza — a 22 per cent increase over the year before — set a record and followed a decade of unprecedented pay increases, the analysis finds.

Roger Martin, dean of the Rotman School of Management, said the gap between low-end and highest-end earners began growing in earnest in the 1980s and accelerated in the 1990s, something Martin attributed essentially to greed.

The question for CEOs changed from how much they felt they needed to earn to how much could they could “possibly extract” from their companies, an attitude detrimental to the company and their employees.

“Rank-and-file employees will increasingly feel like, `Wow, I’m working hard to make that guy really, really rich. Do I like that?”‘ Martin said.

The report is based on disclosures made by companies trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The compensation includes salaries, bonuses, proceeds from stock options and other payouts.

That’s it – I’ve had enough.  

Most of the population kind of has a feeling about the shadiness of these crooks executives – but they are sketchy on the details.  So here is my challenge to my fellow citizens/bloggers.  

Let’s expose them.  

Let’s get the word out on each and every one of these people who’s greed helped to bring down the economy on our backs while they lined their pockets. A sort of pay-it-forward to reveal and ridicule the arrogance of those executives that are damaging us all with their greed run amok.

I will start it off below on one of the biggest offenders – but to ensure that we get the message out and get no duplication – I ask that if you decide to help – please follow this format:

1) Keep the titling. Eg. CEOfail: [CEO of choice]

2) Leave me your email address/link to your post at my blog – http://kickinitwithcg.blogspot… so that I can compile them all.

3) Make it good.

CEOfail: Frank Stronach.

Frank Stronach is an Austrian-Canadian businessman. He is the founder of Magna International, an international automotive parts company based in Aurora, Ontario, Canada, and Magna Entertainment Corp., which specializes in horse-racing entertainment.

Magna is Canada’s largest automobile parts manufacturer, and one of the country’s largest companies. It also owns the successful Magna Steyr automobile production company of Austria. Founded in 1957 by Stronach as Multimatic, the company merged with Magna Electronics in 1969, and the combined company became Magna International in 1973.

Magna manufactures auto parts that are primarily supplied to General Motors, Ford Motor Company, and Chrysler LLC. In addition to the Big 3 automakers, Magna’s major customers include Volkswagen, BMW and Toyota. In Europe, Magna Steyr holds contracts for the assembly of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Chrysler Voyager minivan and BMW X3 SUV. Magna has a relatively minimal presence in Asia with just 3 manufacturing centres in South Korea, 1 in Kunshan,China and 2 engineering centres in South Korea and China.

On Feb. 27, 2009 – Magna International Inc. announced a controversial decision to cut its dividend in half. The move angered some shareholders, but the Canadian parts maker said the cut was prudent given the tough times in the auto industry.

That explanation fails to account for one thing: Over the nine months prior, Magna bought two golf courses from an entertainment company run by Chairman Frank Stronach, spending $84 million on the purchases. That surpasses what was saved by the dividend cut. “That’s our Frank,” says Claude Lamoreaux, chief executive of the Toronto Teachers Pension Fund, which now has less than 1% of Magna stock after dumping a chunk of it last year. “He’s a successful entrepreneur, but then you have these transactions that many people find questionable.”  Outside investors weren’t the only ones anxious about the business practices of Stronach, whose company has emerged in the winter as a leading candidate to buy Chrysler Group. In May, four longtime board members (out of 12) will be resigning.

A close look at Magna reveals a complex and interesting company. True, Stronach is a brilliant entrepreneur who delivers results. The company made $528 million last year on revenues of $25 billion, even as many parts makers succumbed to bankruptcy.

But there’s another side to Magna’s indomitable chairman, a side some investors don’t like. Although Stronach owns just 5% of the common stock, he controls the business outright, with 67% of the Class B voting stock. Critics complain he is overpaid and uses his power to approve rental agreements and other real estate deals between Magna and companies he controls. Board members say they’ve had to wrestle with Stronach to keep Magna from diversifying away from the parts business and into riskier ventures such as Stronach’s passion, Thoroughbred racing. “It wasn’t just one thing,” says the departing Richardson. “You’re constantly in a position of having to look out for the shareholders. They don’t have a loud voice.”

While he is respected in the auto industry, Stronach has few fans in the corporate governance movement. He started Magna in a garage 50 years ago and has been known to take a cavalier attitude toward complaints. When shareholders challenged his salary in 2004, he told Toronto’s Globe and Mail: “It’s a free country. If they don’t like it, they should sell their shares.”

Ah – the salaries…. Considering he’s a Canadian titan and the founder of the largest auto-parts manufacturer in the world, Frank Stronach makes a surprisingly modest salary as the chair of Magna International. In 2007, for example, he pulled down a base of $215,000.  

But wait.

Since 2002, including bonuses and payouts – Stronach has paid himself $168 million, for an average of nearly $34 million a year, according to the company’s annual reports. His pay amounts to 3% of profits in a typical year. In 2007, Stronach
took home $40.6 million for business development, consulting and other services, according to a company information circular released.  That’s $40 million in consulting fees to one man in one year, or about $800,000 per week.  But that’s not all. Stronach also exercised $27.3 million in stock rights and was paid $2.47 million in “other” consulting fees, bringing his total compensation package to $70.6 million in 2007 alone. That’s set a new Canadian record, eclipsing the previous mark of $58.1 million held by none other than Frank Stronach.  Magna’s stock value shrank by 15.45 percent over the same period.

In the circular, the company’s corporate governance and compensation committee said Stronach deserved the money. Even though he’s a part-timer now, Stronach continues to play a pivotal role in all aspects of the company, including international expansion, product innovation and relationships with unions.

“The committee continued to recognize that Mr. Stronach continued to have business activities unrelated to Magna, but that this does not detract from the quality and value of his ongoing contribution to Magna,” said the report.

An odd comment, given that Stronach is under fire precisely because his other business activities are, at least to some shareholders, too related to Magna.

For years, Stronach has been using the profits from MI Developments, Magna’s real-estate arm, to prop up his money losing racetrack business, Magna Entertainment. Stronach is also chairman of both those companies.

Stronach came forward with a proposal this week to spin off Magna Entertainment. It’s a complicated three-way transaction, a few components of which have met with opposition from some shareholders.

Under Stronach’s plan, Magna would guarantee a $1-billion loan to a new company that would replace MI Developments as the landlord for many of Magna’s factories. Some analysts say that’s not a good use of Magna’s balance sheet.

And one MI Developments shareholder says the deal would effectively result in Stronach getting a $300-million payout.

“We do not understand how this deal can be justified,” said David Green of Hotchkis and Wiley in a statement. “The transfer of approximately $300 million, greater than 20 per cent of the stock’s current market cap, to Frank Stronach in order for him to now support the deal is appalling. We strongly object to this transaction in its current form and intend to vote our shares against it.

But here is where it gets even more appalling…  A few days ago:

Magna is asking employees who are not already doing part-time work to take voluntary pay-cuts based on the size of their salaries in an effort to cope with the recession.

Magna is asking all European employees who are not in part-time work to do so, but the request affects 3,500 of them in Styria. Some 4,000 Magna employees at Graz and Albersdorf are doing part-time work that has effectively lowered their incomes by 10 per cent and will not be asked to take voluntary pay-cuts.

This is just one in a series of Magna plant shut downs or job losses across the world.  And last week – it was reported today that Magna International had “taken an axe to executive pay.” It didn’t.

In 2009, company officials will not take home as much as they have in other years, but not because of any cuts agreed to by management. In fact, if truth be told, the Magna gang will get more than can be justified by the Magna constitution, which has been used so well to justify past compensation levels.

Magna has long justified its huge executive paycheques, not to mention the mountain of cash it hands out to part-time chairman and controlling shareholder Frank Stronach, by noting executive compensation is tied to a fixed percentage of pretax profits by the so-called Magna Carta. Nobody has cut that percentage. What has happened is that Magna’s pre-tax profits have been hit hard by economic turmoil and exposure to the fate of Detroit’s Big Three.

During tough times, Magna executives are supposed to live off their salaries, which are still a significant six figures. The salaries have not been cut, either. Instead, the company is topping them up because performance pay has tanked with profits and Magna now insists that its officials, including Stronach’s daughter Belinda, should not be forced to live up to the spirit of the constitution.

Stronach loves to boast about being different. He has repeatedly insisted that the big payouts only happen at Magna when there are plenty of pre-tax earnings to distribute to executives, workers, investors and society. But under the direction of lead director Mike Harris, who took home more than $600,000 last year for being a self-proclaimed slave to the Magna constitution, the rules have been changed to ensure Magna executives don’t have to survive on less than seven figures. That’s despite all the money they accepted under constitutional rules in the past.

Stronach himself isn’t getting a top-up, which he would not deserve. After all, his real role at Magna is to make sure that the executives and directors he put in place live by the constitution that justifies his dual-share powers and multi-million-dollar consulting fees.

If an executive can rake-in millions of dollars in compensation regardless of performance, what’s his personal incentive to make his company profitable? We see athletes whose performance languishes after signing guaranteed contracts. If pay, pensions and perks are equally guaranteed, should we be surprised to see CEO’s doing the same?


  1. there’s nothing like a little daylight to clean out the roaches.

    As my attempt at snark today made clear (if it wasn’t already), I’m not at all clear that the majority of the “anti-capitalism” movement isn’t really a “pro-capitalism anti-corruption” movement.  I see these execs getting bonused to fail and I think to myself, “You folks are missing the whole point of this capitalism thing, and you’re confusing all sorts of people while you’re at it.”  

    See, it’s really very simple.  When you take a risk to seize an opportunity and work real hard applying your unique skills and succeed then you get to benefit from that success.  It kinda gums up the whole works if you’re just going to run around failing and benefiting from that, too.  Folks won’t know what to think, they’ll throw their hands up, go back home and punch up Casablanca or a rerun of the superbowl and stop trying, and then who’s going to be left to even clean up the mess you made?

    Expose the crooks and liars.  While we’re at it, let’s make it profitable to be a good CEO like John Chambers at Cisco Systems, who made $12M for running a $40B company in 2007 and chopped his salary to $1 in 2001 when the market tanked:

    Chambers also did not receive a bonus and gave back 2 million of the 6 million options he was granted for the period.

    Now that’s how you lead people, you other morons.  Pay attention.

    “It’s a good symbolic act. It sends a message to shareholders and institutional investors that he won’t enrich himself with other people having lost money on the stock. And it sends a message to employees who aren’t getting raises either,” said Jon Holman, who heads executive recruiting firm The Holman Group.

    “It’s kind of stinky if people in the company are reaping huge bonanzas and the company is not performing.”

    Interestingly in the current context, Chambers is “turning Cisco socialist”.

  2. Jjc2008

    I remember that from the 80s.

    As one of the few who despised Ronald Reagan and his anti union rhetoric, I was labeled “pinko commie” by some.  We argued and still argue forever.

    PURE UNREGULATED CAPITALISM is just as bad as PURE UNREGULATED SOCIALISM and maybe even worse…….because as long as humans are involved, there will be GREED, CHEATING and UNFAIRNESS.

    It is the reason I so strongly oppose “MERIT PAY” in education.

    If in “measurable” fields (ie. success and failure can be statistically measured….as in how many widgets made, sold and used by consumers…..etc), cheating occurs on a grand scale as you just described, it will most certainly be corrupt when success and failure is not so clearcut.

    The problem?  We have (I believe this is worldwide) a pundit/journalist class consisting of millionaires.  The system works for them and so they have been “covering” instead of “uncovering” the truth for decades.  

    I am not sure anything short of revolution will work as long as the golden rule (he who has the gold rules) is in place.  During the gilded age of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, poor people, immigrants worldwide were being treated as disposable garbage by the rich industrialists. It took battles worldwide to change the status quo.  

    During the 80s, when people in Latin American countries tried to revolt against the right wing, capitalist agenda being imposed by their “governments” they were “disappeared, erased, killed”.   And the people in the USA closed their eyes to it as their hero Ronald Reagan was aiding and abetting this horrid, inhumane treatment of people trying to form unions, trying to get fair treatment in their oligarch countries.  And yet to this day, Reagan is admired in this country, even by many progressives.

    How do we stop the strong armed capitalism that is doing the same thing?  Granted, there has not been the violence experienced in some countries toward union workers but it has not been needed since the media of this country has pretty much spun the unions so negatively, a majority including progressives are anti union.  

    Somehow people still believe the spin of the UAW workers getting $70 per hour and that lie angers them more than what the CEO’s and upper management get.  It’s like the people who still get livid at “Food Stamp/welfare” cheaters and are clueless about the corporate welfare.

    As long as it is being covered up by the millionaires who run the media, the battle is uphill, the hill being a mountain.

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