Underwater Stock Options Get a Lifeline From Firms
By Tomoeh Murakami Tse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 7, 2009; D01
Nearly 100 companies have undertaken programs that allow employees, many of them executives, to exchange sharply depreciated stock options for new awards with more generous terms.
The companies, from Google to Silver Spring-based United Therapeutics, argue that the exchange — which increases the chances that executives will be able to collect rewards even though the company stock has plummeted — is necessary to retain and motivate personnel.
You probably know an ever-widening pool of acquaintances (possibly yourself among them) who are worried about holding on to their jobs as 10, then 20, then 25% of their co-workers get laid off.
Motivation is not an issue, as most of us struggle to hold on.
But the privileged never seem to get enough privilege. The bums who occupy the 14th floor (or whatever floor it is in your firm where executives hang out) cannot be enticed to hold onto the jobs that so devastated their companies without an escape from reality and the profit that accrues to escape from reality.
America is awash in reality shows–except in the business and economic environment. We are apparently willing to purr with sympathy as CEOs and other co-conspirators get their fallen stock options repriced–so they may profit from the debacle they delivered to this country and the world.
The rest of us simply lose our jobs, our homes and our ability to keep families together.
In the reality show that has replaced Main Street America, we accept that. There is no shame so deep that we are not willing to shrug and accept it. Another news item slipped across a quiet Saturday, where it can be depended upon to escape notice.
There is a new sheriff in town and he’s playing the same old music in the dance-hall. Welcome to the third act in the Decline and Fall of the American Empire. Just keep eating the popcorn.