Corporate America is in the midst of an obsession with "shareholder value."
This narrow measure of company performance holds that what's good for a company's stock price is also what's good for the company and its customers and employees. So, for better and worse, many of today's CEOs are judged primarily by their stock prices.
Capitalizing on this theme, Bloomberg has put together a list of CEO "underachievers"--big company CEOs whose stocks have done the worst relative to the broader market since the beginning of each CEO's tenure.
Meg Whitman of Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) sits atop the list, with HP's stock having underperformed by a startling 30 percentage points since she took the job.
And, not surprisingly, the staggeringly well-compensated CEO of Occidental Petroleum (OXY), Stephen Chazen, owns a place in the top 10.
Although some CEOs certainly deserve a place on an "underachiever" list, the problem with judging CEOs this way is that it encourages CEOs to make decisions that might pump up stock prices in the near-term but actually hurt them over the long-term.
At most companies, for example, firing employees and cutting research and development expenses will increase this year's earnings per share--something that Wall Street generally applauds.
But firing employees and cutting research and development spending this year may also depress growth two or three years from now, when the products that this extra investment might have produced would finally have hit the market. Thus, in the interests of pleasing impatient short-term shareholders, the CEOs might have shortchanged the long term.
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