Hillary Clinton will be attending a fundraiser Monday hosted by a businessman whose past pay packages appear to represent everything she has condemned in the American economy.
Clinton will be traveling to Baton Rouge for a fundraiser at the home of businessman Jim Bernhard. According to the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report, the fundraiser will be a posh affair, with each ticket costing $2,700, while different sponsorship levels cost $27,000 or $50,000.
Bernhard was CEO of the Shaw Group, a Fortune 500 company with some 25,000 employees, for over 25 years until it was purchased by Chicago Bridge and Iron Company (CB&I) in 2013.
When the buyout happened, Bernhard was the beneficiary of a truly immense golden parachute. Bernhard was paid more than $36 million in cash and stock due to contractual provisions relating to the company’s buyout, and on top of that he received an $18.7 million retirement package and the right to use a private jet for ten years, putting the overall value of his severance above $54 million.
Bernhard’s compensation package engendered significant criticism even before it took effect, partly thanks to its non-compete clause, which notably was structured to pay out even if he was dead. In 2007, his golden parachute was rolled back slightly after California’s pension system, a major Shaw investor, blasted it as “some of the most egregious severance and change-of-control provisions ever,” but it still proved quite lucrative. It also led to accusations during the company’s takeover that Bernhard engineered the sale not because it was in shareholder’s best interests, but because it would grant him a personal windfall that could, among other things, free him up to enter Louisiana politics.
Bernhard’s huge windfall based on selling off Shaw meshes uncomfortably with certain aspects of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, which has placed major focus only the issue of economic inequality.
“There’s something wrong when CEOs make 300 times more than the typical worker,” Clinton said in Monticello, Iowa, in the first days of her campaign. Bernhard’s exit windfall handily beats that, amounting to over 1500 times the income of the average U.S. worker.
Clinton hasn’t called for systematically eliminating golden parachutes entirely, but she did endorse a Democratic proposal three weeks ago to ban all golden parachutes given to company employees who leave to take government jobs, arguing such payouts are creating corruption in government.
Despite Clinton’s substantial rhetorical focus on inequality, she has been criticized on the left for raising most of her money from wealthy donors rather than the Democratic rank and file.
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