"Insiders with a curious edge" (News & Insights, Dec. 18) is yet another sad commentary on the lack of ethics and morality of our corporate executives. One would think that the scandals at companies such as Enron, WorldCom, and Adelphia, and the subsequent jail terms handed out, would have had a cleansing effect on the behavior of the executive class. Instead, we have the ever-expanding scandal of backdated options and now this trading plan. Not even Sarbanes-Oxley, which the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is now trying to gut, seems to have had much effect. How many millions of dollars of ill-gotten gains does it take to make our corporate chieftains satisfied? The ethical executive seems to have become the exception, rather than the rule.
The reality is that typically only those at the highest levels have access to the full set of data for a company. Thus, executives have the advantage of seeing trends in the marketplace and their companies' business. Of course, they also set the date for announcing results. Is it any wonder that any rule the Securities & Exchange Commission creates can be manipulated by executives for their own benefit?
Maybe it's time executives earn their bonuses the way the rest of their employees earn them: in cold, hard cash based on specific performance criteria for the year. If the company doesn't make the goal, no bonus. Period. Cash eliminates accounting games and trading schemes, and puts a firm number on the worth of an executive.
The amazing turnaround achieved by James McNerney at Boeing Co. (BA) received a full-page picture spread in "Best start at a new company" (The Best of 2006, Dec. 18). Your much smaller caricature of Warren Buffett on the same page did not do justice to the magnitude of his generous donation. If we want the rest of the world to adopt free-market policies, first we ought to help them stay alive. Buffett's $31 billion donation will bring a lot more progress toward our ideals than $15 billion worth of Chinook helicopters. It is time to get our priorities straight and recognize our leaders accordingly.
Rego Park, N.Y.
Judging by the look of the drone pictured in "For gis, a new eye in the sky" (Science & Technology, Developments to Watch, Dec. 18), I think your article meant to compare the new drone to Star Wars' R2-D2, instead of C-3PO.R2-D2 is the short, domed garbage can-like droid, whereas C-3PO is the taller, gold, human-like droid.
San Jose, Calif.