He’s back at it again. After calling corporate governance advocates “birdbrains” a few months ago, as we noted at the time here, billionaire television and internet mogul Barry Diller is accusing the press of conduct that is almost illicit in its reporting on CEO pay. “I think it’s close to criminal,” he said of recent media coverage regarding executive compensation. Mr. Diller, one of the highest paid executives in the United States, also fears for the health of directors, whom he portrays as being nervous old aunts in light of the push to make companies more transparent and accountable. “You have boards now that are skittish in every area. They’ve made chief executives very skittish,” he is reported as saying to the Financial Times.
Apparently, it’s just not as easy as it used to be for a CEO to roll over boards and shareholders and grab as much as he can. That, too, it seems, should be a crime according to Mr. Diller. So here’s a suggestion to a man who knows a thing or two about the entertainment business. Create a new reality show called Barry Diller’s Crime Stories. Episodes could focus on travesties like unruly investors who are constantly breaking and entering the CEO’s turf by insisting on fair and accurate disclosure about what’s happening with their money, disputatious auditors who no longer turn a blind eye to financial shenanigans in the boardroom and regulators who have sunk so low they seem to think insider trading and stock option backdating should be prosecuted.
There could be segments on how convicted white collar felons like Jeff Skilling, Andrew Fastow, Bernie Ebbers and Sanjay Kumar (who also had some funny ideas about CEO pay) were really victims of abuse and wrongdoing rather than the perpetrators. Certain corporate governance experts and pay reformers (those other ones –not me) could be burned in effigy before a live studio audience. Yes, Mr. Diller, you can make the world safe from the evils of misguided troublemakers lurking about the corporate world scaring innocent directors out of their wits just because they think $295 million in one year for a CEO whose initials are B.D. might be a bit over the top. Lock them up and throw away the key. And while you’re at it, put everybody who supported Sarbanes-Oxley under house arrest. The future of free enterprise demands no less.
I think you’ve got another winner on your hands, Barry, and you won’t even have to wear those clown pants.