It was the mathematical symmetry of the number that got to me. It costs me about $46 to fill up my Honda at a California gas station these days ($3.28 for unleaded according to AAA). Liz Douglass, in today’s LA Times, reports that Occidental Petroleum CEO Ray Irani made $460 million in 2006. That’s exactly 10 million fill-ups. 100,000 cross country trips at these prices. Of course, at these prices, it’s a rare day that anyone fills up the tank. (I wonder if AAA has seen a spike in calls from members who ran out of gas because they were holding out in hopes of finding a lower pump price somewhere?)
Obviously everybody sitting on top of an oil company these days gets paid in gold bullion, but I’m not alone in thinking that Irani and some of these other guys (and these) would make the robber barons blush. The $460 million is almost twenty times more than the $25.4 million/year he averaged over the prior five years. Must have been tough. So why was Irani due so much money this year? Reuters reports :
"When you look at this, this is solid pay for performance," said Richard Kline, an Occidental spokesman. "It serves the best interest of the corporation and the best interest of the shareholder."
According to the LA Times:
In justifying Irani’s pay, the company cited Occidental’s "superior operating performance" and its "exceptional growth in stockholder value."
The firm’s compensation committee gave Irani credit for reviving Occidental’s investment in Libya and increasing its holdings in other countries in the region. Irani "has developed particularly strong relationships with government leaders in a number of Middle East countries" that are "a competitive advantage for Occidental and have allowed Occidental to establish credibility similar to that enjoyed by significantly larger oil companies," the committee said.
They make fast friends with the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and other government leaders in the Middle East, but man are they pissing off their neighbors here at home.