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Rocky at the Top

Last week’s news that Merrill Lynch took an $8.4-billion write down connected to its revaluation of mortgage-related assets–the largest loss in Wall Street memory–was followed within five days by the firing of its CEO, Stan O’Neal. Clearly, a well-deserved boot for a guy who not only shoulders the blame for the latest financial fiasco, but was also credited in a Wall Street Journal article on Monday with an aloof and arrogant management style. A by-product of the Enron era is the increasingly aggressive nature of corporate boards to move quickly to sack the CEO for poor performance. There is a strong trend toward compensation plans that pay for performance–providing financial rewards based on what one produces. The Merrill story reveals that the reverse can also be true: “You’ll pay for your performance.”

Tony LoPinto is CEO of Equinox Partners, an executive search firm specializing in the real estate industry, and parent company of SelectLeaders. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.
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