Your RDA of Irony

The Bordello of Directors

Despite my best efforts, not all of my money is spent on ice cream. (Edy’s–if the company would like to reward this product placement.) No, I have also bought stocks, but in most cases the ice cream was a better investment. Now, to remind me of my foolhardy capitalism, the companies are sending me their annual reports and requesting my expression of gratitude by voting for the board of directors.

The companies can always count on my vote–against them. With visions of tumbrels and guillotines, I read the names of the directors to find the standard chorus of sychophants and ciphers. They include retired politicians, idiot heirs and professional board sitters. For simply agreeing (understanding is unnecessary) to whatever the Chairman says, a director will receive $ 80,000 a year plus stock options. Attendance at the meeting is required, but a private jet is available for transportation.

I have a ballot in front of me. This particular slate includes three former government officials, one of whom should not have much spare time between grand juries. I see the name of a college president; apparently, those astronomical Ivy League tuitions are not reflected in her salary, so she has to moonlight here. (Free lunches are also included.) But most blatant of all is the corporate incest. This slate is typically top heavy with the poobahs of other corporations. In theory they are lending their expertise to the meetings; in reality they are protecting each other. Some of them have been co-conspirators since college, and they probably even lie for each other on golf scores.

In my corporate experiences, I have been in edifying proximity to some boardroom spectacles. My favorite involved a company caught in a scandal. Attempting to do business in the Middle East, it understood that bribery would be required. Unfortunately, this corporation did not know which official to bribe. As a general rule, one should bribe them all, but this company did not understand the etiquette. Worse, the company was calling attention to itself–whether it was placing full pages in the Damascus Daily or telephoning the State Department with questions–the results were incriminating. Since the Democrats were in the White House at the time, corporate corruption and foreign bribery were treated as felonies rather than hobbies.

The corporation could easily afford the million dollar fine but not the bad publicity. If you are trying to ingratiate your company with Syria, does that make your company anti-Israel? The headlines were asking that question, and the beleaguered Chairman looked at his board of directors and saw the solution: Get me a Jew! The corporate board lacked one who could refute the accusations. Fortunately, Chicago has a number of Jews–and some of them are very conspicuous. The daughter of a prominent magnate was willing to join the corporate board. (I suspect that the board’s Southern socialite would not talk to Ms. Tokenstein–but that is besides the point.) Now, no one could question the company’s love of Jews.

And that is how corporate boards work.

  1. Peggles says:

    So how do I become one of these corporate board sitters? I’ll even lowball them and serve for a mere seventy grand.

  2. Rothgar says:

    I can beat that I’d do two for a mere 60 grand each. That’s 25 percent off for those money grubbing MBA types.

  3. Peggles says:

    Okay – gloves off! I’ll do two for a quick hundred grand, AND I’ll bring my own lunch!

  4. The free lunches are delicious, and they use the fancy china too. How would I know? One of the perks of being in corporate communications was that we got the leftovers. I must add that this generous policy only applied to luncheons and not the Chairman’s mistresses.

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