HIGHTOWER: Payday!

It's payday ... do you know where your next million is coming from?Geoffrey Bible, like all of us, is just trying to make ends meet -- though some of us have a longer stretch than Bible does. He's top dog at Philip Morris, and his board of directors not only paid him a nice $1.6 million salary last year, but added a sweet dollop of cream on top: a bonus of $3.5 million. But his payday didn't end there -- add in stock options, incentive pay, and a category called "other compensation," and Geoffrey totaled right at $24 million for 1998. This is not counting his limousine, country club memberships, company jet, housing allowance, executive chef, and a free weekly shampoo for his poodle.All this was a year in which Philip Morris didn't do well. Who knows, in a good year he might've gotten that poodle shampooed twice a week.Are there no limits on the excesses of these guys? Well, yes, say the companies, we have "executive compensation committees" that carefully scrutinize CEO performance and allocate pay accordingly. Sure, and the monkeys are guarding the zoo.Guess who heads the compensation committee at Philip Morris? John Reed. When he's not keeping his hawk-eye on Geoffrey Bible, he's Chief Executive of Citigroup, the financial services conglomerate. One reason that John Reed might have a slightly skewed sense of how much Bible should be paid is that he himself hauled off $1.7 million in salary last year, plus a $7.8 million bonus and stock options worth $16.9 million. So, hey, he says, if I made $26 million, how far off is it to pay Bible $24 million?And so what that Bible's company had a rough year? Citigroup, under John Reed, saw its profits fall by a billion-and-a-half bucks, and thousands of workers were fired, so you can't hold tough times against the guy at the top.This is Jim Hightower saying ... For CEOs, it's a scratch-my-back-and-I'll-scratch-yours-world.

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