Who's minding moguls' moolah?
Legislation could force Hollywood to disclose pay
There's a rebellion brewing around the world against what The Economist labels "the corporate gravy train" of executive compensation, but Hollywood until now has managed to elude the rebels.
New legislation as well as new SEC rules could force studios and networks for the first time to disclose the paychecks of senior executives and star dealmakers --
"I keep explaining to my clients that they have to lower their expectations," one senior TV agent told me last week, "but some of the corporate guys who are crunching me just got pay raises."
The SEC plans to propose rules requiring companies to reveal details about the pay of middle-management executives -- not just the top five -- and Sen. Charles Schumer introduced a bill recently that would not only force more transparency on pay but would also require shareholder voting on executive compensation.
All this reflects a worldwide movement to clamp down on corporate perks stemming from the realization that, in many cases, the structure of executive compensation plans has encouraged irresponsible risk-taking, especially in the financial sector.
No direct parallel exists in the entertainment industry, but some Wall Streeters worry about what is arguably an imbalance between performance and compensation.
One agent who represents mainly filmmakers asks: "If the studio guys are still making the big bucks, why are my clients being compromised?"
These comments are reflective of a sort of unspoken class warfare that has broken out in Hollywood.
Hollywood's battles are minor, however, relative to the global outrage against corporate greed that is resulting in the firing of top corporate hierarchs.
Warren Buffet last month denounced the system whereby chief executives are allowed to choose members of their compensation committees and came out in favor of "say on pay" policies for shareholders.
Mary Schapiro, the new SEC chairman, is leading the government inquiry into corporate pay structures that may require more data beyond just the five highest paid execs.
The theme underlying all this:
Apple today cut the price on the iPhone 3G to $99, effective immediately.
The one-two punch comes a day after Palm launched its eagerly anticipated Pre, which analysts estimate sold between 50,000 to 60,000 units in its opening weekend.
$99 is considered a magic price point and could double demand for the iPhone.
Apple claims the iPhone 3GS is two- to three-times faster than existing models.