GUEST COMMENTARY: The 10 greediest Americans of 2011

Monday, December 12, 2011 | 11:59 a.m. CST; updated 8:09 a.m. CST, Tuesday, December 13, 2011

You don't have to make millions to rate as an all-star greedster. But you do have to be ruthless, self-absorbed and insensitive to others. Here's my list of the 10 greediest Americans of 2011.

10. Michael T. Duke, Wal-Mart CEO

Duke takes home his millions — $18.7 million in the company's latest fiscal year — by squeezing workers. He ended "premium pay" for the hours Wal-Mart workers have to put in on Sundays, eliminated profit-sharing, sheared health care benefits and cut staffing levels 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.

9. Paul Hoolahan, Sugar Bowl CEO

The Sugar Bowl, one of college football's top postseason games, enjoys tax-exempt status and regularly touts its contributions to good causes. But Hoolahan's favorite cause may be his own. He took home just under $600,000 in 2009, almost quadruple his $160,500 paycheck for the same job 13 years earlier. Meanwhile, the Sugar Bowl and its three Bowl Championship Series partners are contributing to charity only 20 cents from every $10 in revenue, the Arizona Republic reports.

8. Robert Iger, Disney CEO

His annual compensation topped $28 million last year, a neat 35-percent increase. In October, Iger picked up a new pay deal that extends his CEO contract into 2015 and then adds on a cushy final year as Disney's "executive chairman" — at $2.5 million — to help him make the transition into retirement.

7. Doug Oberhelman, Caterpillar CEO

In 2009, a year that saw only three U.S. corporations lay off more workers than Caterpillar, its CEO took home just less than $3 million. His 2010 paycheck soared to $10.4 million. Caterpillar workers, meanwhile, have a new six-year contract that excludes wage increases and raises health care premiums.

6. William Weldon, Johnson & Johnson CEO

Weldon "restructured" this health care giant in 2007, slashing its quality-control program. For the next two years, a hiring freeze made replacing vacant quality positions almost impossible. In 2009, a flood of recalls began for company products from contact lenses to hip implants, but Weldon took home $25.6 million anyway. After those recalls and other assorted scandals, the company did finally trim his annual pay — to $23.2 million.

5. Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs CEO

In 2007, on the eve of the meltdown banks like Goldman did so much to hasten, Blankfein collected a $68-million bonus, the largest in Wall Street history. In 2011, Blankfein had a chance to hit the restart button. He didn't. In April, Goldman Sachs revealed that Blankfein, after going two years without a cash bonus, had gobbled up $5.4 million in bonus cash for the bank's latest fiscal year. And plenty more in stock and salary. His total pay: $19 million, about double his pay the year before.

4. Alan Mulally, Ford Motor CEO

After losing $30 billion over three years, Ford has gained back $9.3 billion. In reward, Ford handed Mulally $56.5 million in stock and then, a month later, announced that he pulled down an additional $26.5 million last year. That amounted to 910 times the pay of entry-level Ford workers.

3. Larry Ellison, Oracle CEO

The top exec at business software giant Oracle collected $77.6 million for the fiscal year that ended May 31.That piece of change added less than two-tenths of 1 percent to Ellison's $39.5 billion personal fortune, the world's fifth largest.

2. Don Blankenship, former Massey Energy CEO

West Virginia investigators found Massey management directly to blame for the 2010 blast that left 29 miners dead at the company's Upper Big Branch coal mine. Massey, the report charged, had nurtured a "culture bent on production at the expense of safety." That culture paid off handsomely for Blankenship. He pocketed $38.2 million from 2007 through 2009, after raking in $34 million in 2005, and retired with $5.7 million in pension and $12 million in severance.

1. Mark Pincus, Zynga CEO

High-tech startups like the online social gaming empire Zynga typically attract talent by offering shares of stock. But Pincus had apparently concluded, with a multibillion-dollar IPO pending, that he had given away too many shares. Pincus demanded that various employees "give back not-yet-vested stock or face termination," The Wall Street Journal reported.

Labor journalist Sam Pizzigati edits Too Much, the weekly Institute for Policy Studies newsletter on excess and inequality. Distributed by

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Bob Hill December 12, 2011 | 12:34 p.m.

A lot of accusations with no references. My vote for greediest...the Occupy crowd. They want something for nothing.

All those listed produced something that was desired by others. Think of money as voucher for your contribution to society. Not always a one-to-one relationship, but not a bad indicator.

For instance...why is Bill Gates wealthy? Because he empowered us to do more with less. I may pay him $300 every so often for software, but my return is much greater.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams December 12, 2011 | 3:56 p.m.

What? No Winfrey, Gore, Kennedy, Moore, or Heinz on the list?

Whoda thunk it?

PS: Well, there's always that good rich/bad rich thingie to help explain things.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro December 12, 2011 | 4:09 p.m.

When did being financially successful and business savvy become fodder for attacking one's character as greedy?
The only character I can think of being consumed with greed was poor Ebenezer Scrooge, prior to his visit from a few spirits.
The author of this article, Sam Pizzigati, must have one heck of a story, for those on his list, if he believes that he's their ghost of Christmas future.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith December 12, 2011 | 4:35 p.m.

"When did being financially successful and business savvy become fodder for attacking one's character as greedy?"

Oh, sometime during the past 80 years that we've had people from Harvard and Yale ruining - typo! should be "running" - our country. Most of those folks weren't and aren't in the so-called 99%.

Even Ebenezer Scrooge turned it around.

(Report Comment)
frank christian December 12, 2011 | 5:02 p.m.

Ellis - Even Rep Henry Hyde stated on floor of House, "how would we survive without Haaarvard! One could see the tongue in his cheek but.....

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush December 12, 2011 | 6:27 p.m.

The chorus bashing
Education, defending
The criminal class.

You think consumers
Were just wearing their skirts too
High or shirts too tight.

Usual suspects:
Winning in the rigged game and
Might alone makes right.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle December 12, 2011 | 9:43 p.m.

Did you know that the share of income captured by the top 1% fell from 23% in 2007, to only 17% in 2009?

Clearly, these guys are on hard times, and take the bulk of the risk for economic downturns. Y'all should really hold a bake sale to help these guys out:

I personally don't think the bunch above is that bad. Only two are confirmed job killers, and only one other is an actual murderer.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams December 12, 2011 | 11:21 p.m.

Europe is in control of this thing hell with inequality and who makes how much; that's an argument for down the road. The current uncertainty is astounding and "no new jobs" is on the near horizon. After Santa Claus does his thingie, y'all better hope we aren't headed for a global liquidity event.

'Cause if we are, you ain't seen nuttin' yet.

For now, this discussion is moot and a distraction, making us think we are discussing something important...but we're not.

(Report Comment)
frank christian December 13, 2011 | 9:35 a.m.

Progressive liberals, while screwing up our country have unanimously mouthed that our problems would be solved if we just could follow the example of the Europeans. Now, seeing our economy in decline and watching liberal gov'ts and people in EU resist (demonstrations, strikes, riots) the obviously necessary changes in spending by those Governments, they can still back the spending of the Keynesians controlling our gov't. Anyone still believe in the progressive veil that they are truly concerned only with the condition of our "poor" and our "middle class"?

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams December 13, 2011 | 10:29 a.m.

Looks like the EU crisis isn't gonna wait for Santa Claus to come and go.

It's picking up speed and the wheels are about to come off. Someone tighten the lugnuts. The only thing helping the stock market right now is the Fed, and once Ben craps out it's down we go.

2012 ain't lookin' good.

Hope I'm wrong.

Don't think I am.

Protect yourself.

(PS: Paul hates it when I spread bad newz....I'm some sort of agitator, I guess. OccupyUhOh. We got bigger things to worry about than envy.)

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith December 13, 2011 | 11:05 a.m.

Michael Williams:

Whether or not you meant to do so, sounds like you are quoting from the theme song for the TV mystery/comedy show "Monk." That song also contains the words, "I could be wrong now/But I don't think so." The song's title is "It's a Jungle out there."

Maybe we won't do so badly, even if it is a jungle out there. Who knows, we could end up waltzing with jaguars rather than doing slow foxtrots with baboons*.

*- "Baboon" is the name given to the black howler monkey; there are no African baboons in Belize.

(Report Comment)
J Karl Miller December 13, 2011 | 12:14 p.m.

I have to concur with Mr Hill's indictment of the occupy mob as the real culprits. Mr Pizzigati's "10 greediest" are also ten primary providers of employment. The only employment opportunities triggered by the occupiers was overtime pay for the police and for the trash and garbage collectors who had to pick up after them.

I was never hired by anyone poorer than me.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams December 13, 2011 | 2:00 p.m.

Ellis: I'm playing it as if I'm NOT wrong.

This EU debt crisis is spreading like a pox.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams December 13, 2011 | 2:05 p.m.

J Karl Miller says, "I was never hired by anyone poorer than me."

For some reason, this is not understood by many.

I don't know why.

(PS: A corollary: No one ever got rich working for someone else. Unless you bought WalMart-or-equivalent stock years ago.

Or won the lottery. I made it a point to ask that my daughters not consider a suitor as serious if his 10-year financial plan included winning the lottery).

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush December 13, 2011 | 2:26 p.m.

A refrain from the
Syrian government - you
Greedy protesters!

Ghastly thought: there are
Twenty-nine jobs now at
Massey Energy -

Clearly, it wasn't
Greed that led management to
Unsafe conditions.

The rich don't make jobs -
They hoard money. It's market
Demand that makes jobs.

And we know now that
Billionaires don't need to live
Within zoning laws.

(Report Comment)
John Schmidt December 13, 2011 | 8:39 p.m.

I would be interested in knowing what your employment has been since you quit working for the government.

(Report Comment)

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