Christian & Timbers today released its 2006 CEO Stick Rate Report in the continuing glare of investigation that originated with Sarbanes-Oxley legislation in 2002. "Stick Rate" is defined as the percentage of CEO'S who retain their positions in any given period of time, in this case during 2006 or the five years pre- and post-Sarbanes-Oxley.
The global executive recruitment firm found that 14 percent, or 14 out of the Fortune 100 CEOs, stepped down during 2006. Only one, former United Health CEO William McGuire, left specifically because of options backdating. Yet, three other companies in the Fortune 100, while not terminating CEOs, have been subject to SEC or Justice Department actions, or have restated financials based on backdating:
- Home Depot routinely backdated options for 20 years since 1981
- Caremark Rx received a Grand Jury subpoena from the Justice Department and notice of an informal inquiry from the SEC
-Microsoft was reported by the Wall Street Journal to have taken a charge and dropped the practice of backdating but no official inquiries have occurred.
To date, over 120 companies are under scrutiny for options backdating, not including those that may have undertaken internal probes, according to published reports.
The 14 F100 CEOs who failed to "stick" in 2006 departed for the following reasons:
- 8 retired (from Exxon, MetLife, Walgreen, aetna, Allstate, PepsiCo, and from Cardinal Health and Tyson's, both amid controversy)
- 3 left because their company was underperforming or changed direction (Ford, Albertson's, ADM)
- 1 was ousted because of shareholder concern over excessive compensation (Pfizer)
- 1 left to become U.S. Treasury Secretary (Goldman Sachs)
- 1 left because of options backdating (United Health).
The CEOs who stepped down in 2006 had an average longevity of 9.4 years, compared to the average longevity of 5.24 years for all of the Fortune 100 CEOs in 2006.
Brian Sullivan, chairman and CEO of Christian & Timbers, says that the 2006 data is best viewed in a five-year comparison. "We found a 91.3 percent increase in the number of Fortune 100 CEO departures in the five years following Sarbanes Oxley in 2002 compared to the five years prior. Fifty-six CEOs lost their jobs from 2002-2006; from 1997-2001, 29 CEOs stepped down.
"Twenty-nine CEOs departing in the five years pre-Sarbanes-Oxley means 71 CEOs survived-a Stick Rate of 71 percent. Fifty-six CEOs departing in the five years post-Sarbanes-Oxley means 44 out of a hundred survived-a Stick Rate of only 44 percent," Sullivan noted.
Additionally, 19 companies either dropped off the Fortune 100 list since 2002 or significantly dropped down in ranking, another indication of the volatility of the last five years, according to Sullivan.
"Many of the high-profile accounting and ethics scandals were litigated before 2006 and don't show up in the numbers," Sullivan added. "And not all CEOs departed amid accounting or ethics scandals in the past five years, but the intense scrutiny and accountability required by Sarbanes-Oxley have taken their toll since 2002."
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