Ever since Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" hit bookshelves over 100 years ago, the word 'Scrooge' has become synonymous with miserly people. During these uncertain economic times, it's very likely that many middle-class Americans feel like Bob Cratchit: overworked, underpaid and exploited by their obscenely rich employers. Here are some real-life examples of CEOs behaving like Scrooge.
Not Charitable Enough
Perhaps no American billionaire flaunts his wealth more than real-estate magnate Donald Trump. He may also be one of the least charitable billionaires in America. An investigation by website The Smoking Gun, which reviewed Trump's 2010 tax return, found that he isn't even the biggest contributor to his own charitable foundation. In fact, between 1990 and 2009, Trump personally donated just $3.7 million to the Trump Foundation. For comparison's sake, Michael Bloomberg donated more than $350 million to his own foundation in 2010 alone.
In 2009, Trump filed a defamation lawsuit against author Timothy O'Brien for estimating Trump's net worth to be between $150 million and $250 million. Trump wanted $5 billion for "actual malice" and libel, and claimed that he was actually worth $7 billion. A New Jersey judge dismissed the lawsuit later that year. Trump appealed the decision in 2011 but lost again.
They Make Much More Than Their Employees
Mike Duke is the CEO of Walmart, the world's largest retailer. According to PayScale.com, Duke earns about 717 times more than what the average Walmart employee earns in a year. As CEO, Duke has helped eliminate profit sharing for workers, remove premiums for employees working on Sunday, deny health insurance to new employees who work fewer than 24 hours a week and exclude spouses from health insurance plans for employees who work fewer than 33 hours a week.
Mark Hurd was CEO of Hewlett-Packard between 2005 and 2010. He was fired from the role in 2010 after falsifying expense reports (worth $20,000) to conceal his failed advances toward Jodie Fisher (a contract employee of HP at the time), who accused Hurd of sexual harassment. Despite the severity of the offense, Hurd was still given a severance package worth an estimated $34.5 million. This number was higher than his $30 million salary in 2009, which had put him among the 10 highest-paid CEOs of that year. While he was CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Hurd cut 15,200 jobs, which at the time was 10% of HP's entire workforce. In 2008, HP eliminated 24,600 jobs, and a further 9,000 in 2010. Nevertheless, Hurd was paid $134.2 million between 2005 and 2009.
J. Paul Getty was the billionaire founder of the Getty Oil Company. He was named the wealthiest living American by Fortune magazine in 1957, and his $1.2 billion fortune put him in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's richest private citizen in 1966.
Getty's first incredibly miserly act was to install a payphone in his mansion for guests. However, Getty's infamously stingy behavior was on full display when his grandson, J. Paul Getty III, was kidnapped in 1973. The kidnappers demanded a ransom of $17 million. Paul Getty, Jr., the boy's father, asked Getty senior for the money, but he refused. Three months later, the kidnappers mailed out a human ear belonging to Getty's grandson, with a note in which they threatened to further mutilate their hostage if they were not paid. Getting impatient, the kidnappers lowered their demands and instead asked for $3 million. Getty finally agreed to pay $2.2 million, but only because that was the maximum tax-deductible amount. The kidnappers still wanted another $800,000, so Getty Sr. loaned the money to Getty Jr. at 4% interest, despite the fact that the money was used to save his own grandson's life.
The Bottom Line
The above examples show that some heads of large corporations lack the Christmas spirit and could probably use a Scrooge-like change of heart. However, it's important to keep in mind that there may have been lesser-known factors that influenced their miserly decisions.