The SEC moves to mandate wealth shaming on American corporations

The Securities and Exchange Commission has some news for all business owners which likely won’t come as the most welcome of tidings. Regular notifications of corporations to investors will now include a comparison between the compensation of the CEO and the average workers if new regulations go into effect. The reasons for this seem clear from the social justice perspective, while not apparently having anything to do with the proper regulatory duties of the SEC.

Companies will have to provide investors with a ratio showing how the median pay of their workforce squares with their chief executive officers’ compensation, under new rules slated for adoption by U.S. securities regulators on Wednesday.

Under the Securities and Exchange Commission’s final rules, companies will get some flexibility in how they find the median. For instance, they can exclude 5 percent of their overseas workers when arriving at the number and use statistical sampling.

Those changes are not likely to assuage corporate trade groups, which have opposed any rule and are widely expected to file a legal challenge.

The SEC has been under mounting pressure by Democrats, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and unions, who support the rule and have lamented delays in its adoption.

The deeper meaning here seems rather clear. This is not information which might mask some potentially illegal activity on the part of the corporation or expose insider trading or what have you. The government is looking for a backdoor method of wealth shaming executives and angering workers… assuming they weren’t already aware that the company executives at successful outfits garner large compensation packages if they deliver for the stockholders.

That’s where the real “mystery” of this regulation comes in. We’re not talking about information which needs to be given to the authorities in an effort to detect and prosecute crime. The reports are to be made to shareholders. In reality, most of the big shareholders already know what the top earners are taking from the revenue stream. But if the government can force the company to publish the information in shareholder reports, it will quickly leak out to the media and the public. This explains the involvement of Elizabeth Warren in the entire affair, since being “too successful” in America is now a crime in certain circles.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, though, such a move may result in the the law of unintended consequences coming home to roost at the door of Warren’s supporters.

“The rules may inadvertently incentivize companies to outsource low-wage functions to third-party contractors rather than maintain large numbers of lower-paid full-time employees, which may result in sending many jobs overseas,” said Bud Schiff, head of the executive compensation and benefits practice at Alvarez & Marsal.

It’s also possible that the ratios will be surprising, or hard to compare between companies in the same industry. “Wall Street financial firms will not look bad compared with retailers and manufacturers with lower-wage employees or overseas factories,” he said.

There’s an interesting side effect. By wealth shaming CEOs who are obviously conscious of their public relations numbers, lower wage, less educated workers may pay the price when companies seek to avoid a report intended to do nothing to protect the public interest but only make them look bad. And do you think that the investors who receive these reports haven’t already factored CEO compensation into their analysis of their investment? If the CEO is highly paid but delivers a significant return on investment, that’s a place you want to put your money. This entire effort is a perfect example of decay through regulation.