Marketplace Scratch Pad

This is outrageous!

Scott Jagow Mar 19, 2009

Today, Wal-Mart said it’s awarding $2 billion in extra compensation to about a million hourly workers in the US. Almost half the compensation is bonus money the workers earned because Wal-Mart sales increased. What an outrage! This is unacceptable! I want names! Wait, why am I yelling?

Sorry, I seem to have developed an involuntary anger reflex to the word bonus. Now that I’ve calmed down, I can state the obvious – this is how bonuses are supposed to work.

But I won’t gloss over the fact that Wal-Mart is surely seizing an opportune PR moment.
Or that giving more money to hourly workers might dampen their motivation for unionizing.
Or that in December, Wal-Mart settled 63 class-action lawsuits claiming the company cheated hourly workers and made them skip breaks.
Or that Wal-Mart employees have sued for gender and racial bias.

Those significant caveats aside, at least there are some lower-level employees being rewarded for improving a company’s performance.

I’m sure you’ve heard the House passed a bill today that would impose a 90% tax on the AIG retention bonuses. Lawmakers say they’re mainly just trying to coerce people who received bonuses to give them back.

The Wall Street Journal says Douglas Poling, the man who received the largest bonus ($6.4 million), has already agreed to return his.

Meanwhile, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo issued a statement this afternoon that AIG has given him a list of all the people who received retention payments:

The Attorney General’s Office will responsibly balance the public’s right to know how their tax dollars are spent with individual security, privacy rights, and corporate prerogative.

I hope so. A witch hunt is the last thing we need right now.

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