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The 10 Greediest People of the Year

They came, they saw, they took it all. Welcome to the world where thieves have no honor, and those who hone their talents hammering the rest of us are lavishly rewarded.

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HP’s board cheered Hurd on, every step of the way, until this past August when news surfaced that the married CEO had wined and dined a former erotic actress, handed her a huge and undeserved marketing contract, and then fudged HP's books to cover up his indiscretions.

That arrogance would cost Hurd his job, but not much else. Hurd left HP with a severance package that may total $40 million and almost immediately landed a comfy new gig as president of business software giant Oracle. His new contract will bring Hurd, in his first Oracle year, as much as $11 million -- and a boss, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, who just happens to be his buddy.

2/ Larry Ellison: How dare we call him ruthless

Mark Hurd has shown himself to be a whiz at the merge-and-purge corporate CEO two-step. But the master of that merger two-step -- snatch a rival’s customers, then fire its workers -- has always been Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison, the third-richest man in America.

Oracle has bought out 66 companies over the years, and Ellison, the Wall Street Journal estimates, has collected $1.84 billion in compensation just the last ten years alone. But Oracle's chief started this past year out vowing to change his ways.

In January, after consummating a $7.4 billion takeover of Sun Microsystems, Ellison had “We’re Hiring” buttons handed out at the news conference to announce the deal -- and then royally denounced a news report that Oracle would be axing half of Sun’s 27,600 workers.

“Those who wrote this should be ashamed of themselves,” Ellison ranted. “The truth is, we are going to hire about 2,000 new people to beef up the Sun businesses -- about twice as many as we will let go.”

The truth turned out to be anything but. Five months later, with no fanfare, an Oracle filing with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission revealed that the company was taking a huge severance write-off for personnel reductions. As many as 8,600 jobs, one analyst calculated, would be history.

1/ Andrew Clark: Education really does pay

Just a few years ago, at the height of America’s subprime frenzy, bankers and mortgage lenders were making mega millions hoodwinking vulnerable old people into refinancing their homes at unconscionably high interest rates.

Today, in an economy still reeling from that fraud, a new high-growth industry -- the for-profit higher ed sector -- is hoodwinking vulnerable young people into taking on taxpayer-financed student loans they can’t possibly repay.

And now this industry, facing federal regulations that aim to rein in its deceit, is waging a massive media campaign based on the phony premise that Washington wants to make it “harder to get the education” students “need to succeed.”

No one is personally profiting more from this for-profit higher ed industry chutzpah than the CEO of the San Diego-based Bridgepoint Education, an enterprise that specializes, of late, in going after returning military veterans. That CEO, Andrew Clark, last year took home $20.5 million.

For-profit colleges didn’t pay any particular attention to military vets until 2008. But Congress that year gave veteran tuition benefits a significant hike, and the for-profits rushed to gobble up the newly available tuition dollars. Bridgepoint's military enrollment soared to 9,200 in 2009, up from just 329 three years earlier.

Overall, the New York Times recently reported, Andrew Clark’s Bridgepoint last year spent more on marketing and promotion than on educating its students.

For-profit colleges have hit upon an enormously lucrative business model: Promise vets -- and other potential students -- anything to get them to enroll, even if that means signing them up for courses of little real value or classes, the Times notes, they would be “all but certain” to fail. If students do fail or drop out, no prob. The for-profits get to keep the tuition, courtesy of America’s taxpayers.

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