Joseph Stiglitz on Capitalist Fools

Cropped picture of Joseph Stiglitz, U.S. econo...
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As long as we are putting corporate American under the microscope (with a view toward fixing it, not tearing it down), we may as well take a look at some of the other viruses plaguing the institution of the joint-stock company. One such institution, suggests Nobel Laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz, is the stock option:

Stock options have been defended as providing healthy incentives toward good management, but in fact they are “incentive pay” in name only. If a company does well, the C.E.O. gets great rewards in the form of stock options; if a company does poorly, the compensation is almost as substantial but is bestowed in other ways. This is bad enough. But a collateral problem with stock options is that they provide incentives for bad accounting: top management has every incentive to provide distorted information in order to pump up share prices.

This is not the sort of thing, I would imagine, that is compelling the Occupy Wall Streeters to set up their tents. But as we grope toward a series of polices that will kill the maladies afflicting our institutions, this is one that could use some attention.

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Author: David Wolf

An adviser to corporations and organizations on strategy, communications, and public affairs, David Wolf has been working and living in Beijing since 1995, and now divides his time between China and California. He also serves as a policy and industry analyst focused on innovative and creative industries, a futurist, and an amateur historian.

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