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Presenting the Ten Greediest Americans of 2011

You don't have to make a million to rate as an all-star greedster. You do have to be ruthless, self-absorbed and grossly insensitive.

The greediest among us in 2011 probably haven’t been any greedier, as a gang, than any greedy of the recent past. They just seem that way.

Why so? We have a whole new frame of reference. This fall’s sudden — and exhilarating — rise of the Occupy movement has helped us remember what we, as a society, had sadly forgotten: that decent, smart societies never let the few grab away rewards that ought to be shared among the many.

Who grabbed most greedily in 2011? We have no statistical yardstick to help us make that call. You don’t, after all, have to make a million to rate as an all-star greedster. You do have to be ruthless, self-absorbed, and grossly insensitive.

That description, we’ll admit, fits far more folks than our ten dis-honorees below. Maybe next year, we can hope, we’ll have a harder time filling out our top ten.

10. Paul Hoolahan: Skimming the Sugar

Greed has never been a stranger to professional sports. But this year’s most avaricious sports character works for a nonprofit. Meet Paul Hoolahan, the chief exec at the Sugar Bowl, one of four annual college football postseason games that rotate hosting the national collegiate championship.

The Sugar Bowl enjoys tax-exempt status and regularly touts its contributions to good causes. But Hoolahan’s favorite good cause may be his own. He took home just under $600,000 in 2009, the latest year with figures available, almost quadruple his $160,500 paycheck for the same job 13 years earlier.

Hoolahan and his two top aides are skimming off $1 of every $10 the Sugar Bowl generates, a Washington Post analysis recently  noted. At the same time,  adds thet Arizona Republic, the Sugar Bowl and its three “Bowl Championship Series” partners are donating to charity only 20 cents from every $10 in revenue.

The Sugar Bowl disputes those figures. Hoolahan’s aides  say their bowl never bothers to report many donations “as charitable giving.”

This past September, one of those unreported “donations” came to light. The Sugar Bowl had spent, a Hoolahan flack had to acknowledge, at least $3,000 on political contributions to the governor of Louisiana, a nonprofit tax law no-no.

9. Michael Duke: Shifting the Goalposts

How do CEOs end up making so much? Ask Michael Duke, the chief exec at retail colossus Wal-Mart. Duke takes home his millions — $18.7 million in his company’s latest fiscal year alone — the old-fashioned way. He squeezes workers.

But sometimes squeezing just can’t get the job done. No big deal for Michael Duke. He just moves the goal posts that determine his “pay for performance.”

Duke moved into Wal-Mart’s CEO suite in 2009. Since then, he has  ended“premium pay” for hours worked on Sundays,  eliminated profit-sharing,sheared health care benefits, and  cut staffing so low, Retailing Today reports, that customers sometimes can’t find shopping carts because the store where they’re shopping has no employees available to collect carts from the parking lot.

This sort of chronic understaffing may help explain why Wal-Mart’s “same-store sales” — the business “metric” that compares a retail chain’s sales at the same group of stores from one quarter to the next — started tumbling soon after Duke took over as CEO and didn’t stop sinking until this past fall.

This same-store nosedive should have cost CEO Duke big time at pay time, since same-store sales,  explains a New York Times analysis, accounted for 30 percent of the factors that Wal-Mart used to calculate Duke’s bonus.

But lo and behold, all of a sudden this past spring, Wal-Mart’s board of directors compensation committee eliminated same-store sales from Duke’s bonus calculations. The immediate result: Duke would receive $16 million in “performance” pay — despite Wal-Mart’s stunning same-store sales tailspin.

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