More Financial Aid for CEOs

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A good number of recent corporate scandals have had to do with stock options for CEOs. Paying executives in company stocks gives them heady incentives to focus narrowly on profits and engage in insider trading. (I mean, come on, if you knew your company wouldn’t make its expected quarterly earnings, wouldn’t you sell some stock before the price dipped?) Stock options also give executives the chance to hide their earnings in the technical fine print of annual corporate reports. The most recent spate of corporate wrongdoing involved setting stock options at outdated lower prices, allowing CEOs to maximize their capital gains. (For Mother Jones’ quick and dirty coverage of corporate pay abuses, click here.)

The SEC has had just about enough. Err, scratch that. The SEC wants to make it easier for companies to pay their top executives in stock options and harder for investors to determine just how much they’re handing over. The commission announced the Friday before Christmas (in a move that was clearly not designed to skirt media attention) that it will allow companies to account for executives’ earnings from stock options by spreading them out over the full vesting period. Just this summer, the SEC had demanded for the first time that companies include annual estimates of executives’ stock-options earnings.

That was then, this is now, baby. But Rep. Barney Frank, who is expected to lead the House Financial Services Committee, has cried foul and promises to look into the matter. So perhaps there will be some brakes on the robber barrons’ trains this session.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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