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« So Much For That | Main | Why Baseball is Like Finance »

Nice Little Business You Got There...'d be a shame if we had to start telling you how much to pay people:

Corporate directors must rein in soaring U.S. executive pay or face the prospect of government regulation, said the judge who presided over a landmark pay case involving entertainment group Disney Co. on Tuesday.

Delaware Chancery Court Judge William Chandler -- who let Disney directors off the hook in August for Michael Ovitz's huge $140 million 1996 payoff after a brief failed term as Disney president -- warned in a speech to a directors' group that regulation would be a "blunt instrument."

"If neither the courts nor the markets are able to restrain executive compensation, and if you the decision-makers fail ... the result will be imposition of regulatory controls," said Chandler, whose court handles many important business cases.

I don't disagree that executive pay is out of whack. Given the quality of management at a whole host of large corporations, there's no question that a whole lot of guys sitting in AAA could step up to the big leagues without much loss of quality. That is, the talent pool is probably a whole lot deeper than we think it is, and the actual bottom-line worth of any individual executive, with a few exceptions, is much lower than they're paying.

But it's up to them to figure it out.

First of all, salaries, as salary have already been regulated, and companies just find other ways (deferred compensation, options, etc.) to pay executives. Money will find a way, whether it's around McCain-Feingold, or around judges and regulators who fancy themselves better managers than HR and corporate boards.

But also notice the little bait-and-switch in the judge's last paragraph. "If neither the courts nor the markets...the result will be...regulatory controls." What does he think court-mandated controls are, if not regulation by another name? I don't care what party this guy is, or who appointed or promoted him. This is a perfect example of someone assuming that by definition, the courts are free to roam where they will, even into company salary negotiations.

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