April 7, 2006
I am now an academic but am also a former reporter for The Wall Street Journal.
In my time covering finance it became abundantly clear that executive compensation is both obscene and opaque. Why, for example, are annual reports consistent in omitting executive compensation figures, and allowed to point lamely instead to the fact that they have filed such information with the Commission? Finding such information is time consuming and, for the average investor, rather difficult.
Indeed, the S.E.C.'s general record of punishing corporate malfeasance is exceptionally weak. On the rare occasion that cash penalities are levied, the relative sums are negligible.
Enforcing absolute transparency of executive compensation for public companies is the absolute bare minimum of the S.E.C.'s mandate. Yet given the Commission's record to date, I have no expectations of any real action whatsoever. It is clear that the S.E.C. is now, and has been for some time, a blind, deaf, and toothless watchdog.