Thursday AM August 31st, 2006

Study shows executives of defense contractors and oil companies enjoy huge pay increases...Commerce Department: revised growth in GDP is 2.9 percent...University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer makes list of best employers for workers over 50...

A study by two groups says the chief executives of corporations making big profits from the war on terror are enjoying far bigger pay increases than CEOs of non-defense companies. The study finds that, on average, CEOs of corporations with extensive defense contracts are making double what they did before 9-11. Between 2001 and 2005, the profits for 34 of last year's top defense contractors climbed 189 percent. During the same period, CEOs of large corporations without big stakes in the war have averaged pay gains of six percent. Profits of U.S. corporations as a whole rose 76 percent. The Top 15 oil company CEOs got pay increases last year, even as consumers started paying $3 per gallon for gasoline, according to Chuck Collins with the Institute for Policy Studies.

"The average salary for the Top 15 oil companies is about $32.7 million, which is three times more than the average CEO in the United States. Ed: Were most of those figures because of exceptional years they've had (the) last year or so--bonuses or so on--or is this salary-based? It's a combination of all the forms of compensation, and obviously some of that is stock, which tracks the overall earnings of the company. But in every case, the board has to decide what the ultimate salary's going to be."

The study, conducted by the Institute and United for a Fair Economy, includes Houston-based Halliburton as one example of excessive executive pay.

"Well, Halliburton falls into both categories. It's both a major defense contractor and obviously in the oil services industry, and in terms of Houston, David Lesar, the CEO of Halliburton got a--he's number four. His salary last year was $26 million, so he got a 132 percent raise. Here, we're in the middle of a war, we're trying to maintain a sense of national unity, and yet some people are fighting and dying and others are receiving enormous financial rewards. And (you) just have to wonder what kind of inequality of sacrifice, what kind of message does that send to people who are making the ultimate sacrifice."

The study focused on the pay of the CEOs of the 34 publicly traded U.S. corporations that were among the top 100 defense contractors in 2005. The two groups calculated the pay packages based on salary, bonuses, stock awards, long-term incentives and the value of stock options exercised in any given year.


The nation's second-quarter economic output was a little stronger than first thought, but about what economists expected. The Commerce Department says the revised growth in the gross domestic product during the three-month period was 2.9 percent. That's up from 2.5 percent in the preliminary report, but still much lower than the 5.6 percent in the first quarter and below the average of 3.5 percent for the previous six quarters. The upward revision, based on new information available since the advance report, is partly because of stronger inventory building by businesses. Second-quarter price inflation estimates were left largely unchanged. The Commerce Department report shows corporate profits after taxes climbed 2.1 percent during the second quarter, business spending increased 4.7 percent--more than previously thought--and second-quarter spending by consumers increased 2.6 percent.


As workers get older, their priorities change, and according to AARP, smart companies anticipate those changes. In compiling its list of the best employers for workers over 50, the Senior Citizens Lobby looked at things like opportunities for training; alternative work options, such as flexible scheduling; job sharing, and phased retirement. Using those and other criteria, AARP selected Mercy Health System of Janesville, Wisconsin, as the nation's top employer for workers over 50. The not-for-profit organization also offers things like weekend-only work, work-at-home opportunities, "seasonal work'' programs that let staffers go on leave for extended periods while maintaining benefit eligibility. The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center was the only Texas employer to receive the honor. Others on the AARP list include Lee Memorial Health System of Fort Myers, Florida; Bon Secours Richmond Health System of Virginia; Leesburg Regional Medical Center and the Villages Regional Hospital in Leesburg, Florida; Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut; and Volkswagen.


Groups representing Texas farmers and ranchers say $780 million in federal assistance for drought recovery isn't enough. They say the money announced yesterday for 35 additional counties includes existing subsidies. A request for USDA assistance to 47 other counties was previously approved. U.S> Department of Agriculture officials say this year's drought losses were the state's worst in a single year. Texas has been suffering from severe and prolonged drought conditions for more than a year, resulting in about $4.1 billion in losses.


Reliant Energy is offering energy savings kits to Houston-area residents applying for electricity bill assistance through Reliant's CARE program and other regional social service agencies. The kits include a long-life energy-saving spiral lamp, foam weatherstrip tape and several brochures on air conditioning and appliance savings.

HP has issued a list of energy-saving tips for the home office, including powering down all electronic equipment when not in use and avoiding using screensavers. They use 28 percent more energy than if your computer is in "sleep" mode. Notebook computers use up to 90 percent less energy than standard desktops. Flat-screen LCDs use one-half to two-thirds of the energy required for a bulky monitor. All-in-one fax, printer and copiers save on electricity and space, and reduce heat emissions.


Global power producer AES of Virginia has started building a wind farm near Abilene. The company has signed a ten-year power purchase agreement to sell all of the electricity to Texas electric provider Direct Energy. AES says the project expands on an existing wind farm.


Houston-based Weingarten Realty Investors bought four retail sites in the Atlanta area and one in an Orlando, Florida suburb for $183 million. Weingarten owns more than 300 shopping centers in the south, and these acquisitions add more than 900,000 square feet to its 49 million square feet portfolio.


Bio photo of Ed Mayberry

Ed Mayberry

Local Anchor, All Things Considered

Ed Mayberry has worked in radio since 1971, with many of those years spent on the rock 'n' roll disc jockey side of the business...