In Australia, ‘Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing’

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

In Australia, people still get angry about CEO pay packages that would draw a ho-hum in the United States, and that has John Mullen, the board chair at Aussie telecom giant Telstra, more than somewhat bent out of shape. At Telstra’s annual meeting earlier this month, 62 percent of the company’s shareholders gave an advisory thumbs down to the $4.5 million the Telstra board has okayed for CEO Andy Penn. That brought Mullen to his feet for a “furious” retort. He told the Telstra board’s critics to “get real” about the tough business climate the company is facing. Corporate directors, he went on, don’t “sit around like witches of Macbeth scheming as to how they can manipulate incentive schemes to give improper benefit to already excessive executive salaries.” Mullen’s “staunchly” delivered defense of CEO Penn, who this past June announced a plan to lay off 8,000 workers, left critics distinctly unimpressed. Last year, economist Jason Murphy points out, Aussie CEO pay overall increased six times faster than worker wages.

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Reposted from Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati edits Too Much, the online weekly on excess and inequality. He is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. Last year, he played an active role on the team that generated The Nation magazine special issue on extreme inequality. That issue recently won the 2009 Hillman Prize for magazine journalism. Pizzigati’s latest book, Greed and Good: Understanding and Overcoming the Inequality that Limits Our Lives (Apex Press, 2004), won an “outstanding title” of the year ranking from the American Library Association’s Choice book review journal.

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