Saturday, March 8, 2008

A Big Bonus for a Moral Pygmy

Associated Press has a story this morning, which is somewhat in the same league as yesterday's follow-up to last week's Chutzpah of the Week award. This time, however, the issue is not one of golden parachutes but of bonuses; and the industry is not in the financial sector. Rather, it is Yahoo!, where, one would think, agonizing over the very future of the company would take priority over awarding bonuses. So, in the tradition of the Center for American Progress, let's start with the numbers as reported by the Associated Press:

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company paid its president, Susan Decker, a $1.1 million bonus in 2007, according to documents filed Friday with the Securities and Exchange Commission. That represented a 29 percent increase from the $850,000 bonus she received in 2006, when she was still Yahoo's chief financial officer.

Yahoo promoted Decker in June last year when co-founder Jerry Yang replaced Terry Semel as chief executive officer.

The company awarded its general counsel, Michael Callahan, with a $225,000 bonus for 2007. He received a $200,000 bonus in 2006.

The company didn't explain what Decker and Callahan did to merit the larger bonuses.

It is the second of these awards that deserves the most consideration, particularly in the context of the recent death of Tom Lantos. For those who do not remember (or were not reminded by my obituary for Lantos), Callahan was one of two representatives of Yahoo! (Jerry Yang was the other) whom Lantos declared to be "moral pygmies" for the way they handled a sensitive request for information from the Chinese government that led to a ten-year prison sentence for a Chinese dissident. It is hard to read this news as anything other than a corporate nose-thumbing at the memory of one of the few men in the workings of our Federal government who had strong moral priorities and was not afraid to raise his voice on their behalf.

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