Doing the right thing — when they get caught

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Jan 26

Last week, I wrote about how Merrill’s management sucked. Included as evidence were the numbing numbers surrounding former CEO John Thain’s callous redecorating of his executive office to the tune of $1.2 million. A whopper while at the same time cutting expenses (read: people) and reporting losses. Undoubtedly, my outrage got his attention (heh!) as he has decided to pay the money back:

Former Merrill Lynch Chief Executive John Thain said Monday he plans to reimburse Bank of America for a $1.2 million renovation of his office a year ago, calling the cost “a mistake in light of the world we live in today.”

Thain’s announcement came in a memo to Merrill employees. The renovation expenses, including reports of a trash can that cost $1,405, became a symbol of corporate greed and waste.

The fact that he can casually repay the money from his own pocket says volumes all by itself regarding executive compensation.

One of the main reasons for having an aggressive media is that an aggressive media will find bad things happening and report them. Today, they are reported with a point of view, of course, but they are reported. Bringing these disgraceful practices to light changes behavior. For too long, executive management just filled their coffers at the trough of revenue without regard for customers or employees or profits. The executive world continues to be one of the attitude of entitlement.

This behavior should never have happened in the first place. But we have apparently moved the needle a bit with reporting this information.

Instead of ignoring common sense “in light of the world we live in today,” corporate executives are starting to do the right thing — when they get caught.

Progress. A little.

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