The overblown compensation of corporate executives has been a matter of major concern to the American democracy as far back as “the Gilded Age” as America entered the 20th century. What could be done to contain this runaway self-indulgence of the mighty moguls?
The corporations found a way. They hired experts in the field of compensation. These experts would make recommendations on appropriate pay and the corporation would abide by their decisions. No longer could anyone criticize the corporate executives of using their positions for self-enrichment.
But now, largely under the spur of the sharp-eyed and sharp-tongued California congressman Henry Waxman, who is chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the panel is digging into the relations between the corporations and their advisers on corporate executive compensation.
Waxman wants to know what other work the consultants do for these corporations. He set a deadline of May 29.
The New York Times quotes Waxman as saying, “Almost everyone agrees the extravagant increases in executive compensation make no sense. The question I’m looking at is whether potential conflicts-of-interest among compensation consultants and their corporate clients might play a role in some of the irrational compensation decisions.”
All of which brings to mind the ancient Roman saying, Quis custodiet custodiam? Who watches the watchman?