Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, unique even among corporate crooks

Meet Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors. Even among the top 100 compensated CEOs of last year – as disclosed on the AFL-CIO’s latest Executive Paywatch – he’s unique.

Musk, you see, is the perfect argument for why these corporate crooks don’t deserve one red cent, or even their jobs.

Last year, according to its own filings with the federal government, Tesla, a maker of supposedly “green” vehicles, had $2 billion in revenue. It also lost $74 million. You would think that with a record like that, Tesla’s board would show Musk the door, with or without a “golden parachute.” And you would be wrong.

Instead, the paywatch report notes, Musk earned – if that’s the right word – a combined $78.15 million in pay, bonuses and compensation. In other words, had Tesla paid Musk his true value – zero – it would have turned a profit.

Musk is only the most extreme example of the overcompensated corporate crook running U.S. companies. The list of the top 100 such bozos is on the paywatch website.

(It doesn’t include leaders of non-profit associations and organizations, however. Otherwise, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell would finish 12th on the paywatch list: He took home $44 million.)

Musk isn’t the only malefactor. There are others:

McDonald’s CEO James Skinner earned $27.74 million. He’s among the top 100. McDonald’s workers get paid the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour – if they get paid at all.

McDonald’s workers took to the streets of Manhattan and 30 other cities last month to protest the firm’s “wage theft” – the fast food giant’s denial of correct wages and refusal to pay overtime when they toil more than 40 hours a week. Seven groups of McDonald’s workers in New York, California and Michigan are suing the firm in class action cases for such wage theft.

Then there’s Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JP Morgan Chase – yes, one of the big financial institutions that brought us the 2008 crash, and that we bailed out with taxpayer dollars. Dimon took home $18.72n million last year. The bank netted $35.6 billion on revenues of $106.28 billion – a 33 percent profit. Sounds great for investors, right?

Well, not if you look at how JPMorgan Chase did it. In just the latest instance of its lawbreaking, the bank, in February, had to settle for $300 million in fines in New York courts. It seems JPMorgan Chase was taking kickbacks in exchange for steering homebuyers into overpriced mortgages they couldn’t afford. Those were the mortgages whose collapse triggered the crash.

James McNerney of Boeing earned $23.26 million. All he did was openly break labor law by deliberately moving production of the 777 Dreamliner to anti-union, anti-worker South Carolina in retaliation against the Machinists for sticking up for their members in the Pacific Northwest. The NLRB had to go after Boeing.

All of this, plus the outrageous gaps in pay between the CEOs and the rest of us, tells us two things. The first is that Dimon, Musk, McNerney, Goodell, Skinner and their ilk aren’t worth a penny.

But the second is that the whole system is rotten. A process that rewards corporate crooks who leech their loads of cash off the backs of those who really produce the goods, services and profits that make this country go is a process – and a system – that must be overhauled, if not totally scrapped.            




Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.