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Are shareholders the best people to judge CEO pay?

WICHITA — The Senate Banking Committee wants to give shareholders a nonbinding vote on executive pay in the hopes that it will embarrass boards into keeping a lid on astronomical CEO pay. The thinking is that CEOs took excessive short-term risks to give themselves a big payday and helped drive us into this financial mess.

It’s probably a good thing all in all if it puts a little fear into out-of-touch boards — who supposedly represent the shareholders, already. But I’m guessing the effect will be to make things worse in a crisis because the only people with a shorter -term mentality than CEOs are their shareholders. I’m sure many shareholders thought big bank CEOs were geniuses in 2006 and morons in 2009. This will mainly be a measure of late-in-the-game popular anger at a company’s poor financial performance, which isn’t necessarily the same things as a CEO’s performance.

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