Friday, June 19, 2009

Corporate Pantloads on Parade (Continued): More Executive Jet Abuses

We are indebted to the Wall Street Journal today for the amazing news that more corporate grandees from bailed-out companies have been swanning around in their executive jets on personal trips to resorts like the fabled Greenbrier in West Virginia. (Above).

Consider my jaw dropped. Again. I swear, these corporate pantloads seem determined to thumb their noses at the public, following in the path of the notorious three Detroit CEOs who sailed into Washington in their heavy-metal executive jets last Novmber to beg for and get taxpayer bailouts.

At the same time, the damage being done to a recently thriving and important U.S. industry, business aviation, has been staggering. Mostly because of a bad economy, but partly because of the wide net of public revulsion cast over the entire industry, there have been tens of thousands of manufacturing and service layoffs among makers and providers of business aircraft.

The Journal story is probably behind a pay wall, but see if this link works to provide some summary information.

The Journal reviewed corporate flight records from 14 federally aided banks from October through mid-March, and found widespread use of business jets flying top executives and their families to resort areas or to executives' vacation homes, including places in Europe and the Caribbean.

One major example is Regions Financial, an Alabama financial institution that dispatched two corporate jets at the same time to a small airport in West Virginia that serves those arriving by private jet for the Greenbrier resort, where rooms now cost $389 to $650 a day. (They used to be higher, before the economic slump deepened). The bank's chief executive and family members spent four nights there over Thanksgiving -- twelve days after Regions Financial had received $3.5 billion in federal TARP bailout money.

Executives from some of the usual suspects, including Citigroup and Bank of America,
also are fingered by the Journal for using corporate jets for what appear to be personal larks after receiving bailouts from taxpayers.

Many corporations allow executives to use company jets for personal trips. Some of them absurdly cite "security" reasons, as several of the Detroit automakers did -- as if these mostly unrecoginzable characters are somehow in grave danger.

To do this while taxpayers are seething over bailouts to irresponsibly managed corporations is the essence of arrogance. I simply can not understand why the business aviation industry has not denounced these abuses, rather than blaming the media for pointing them out. Marie Antoinette gets a bum rap historically, but even she knew enough to travel modestly back to Paris when the crowds stormed Versailles.

The Greenbrier Resort, by the way, entered bankruptcy this year under its owner, CSX Corp., the big freight railroad. The railroad then sold it to a private investor.

One of the attractions at the lush resort is a massive underground bunker complex that was built during the Cold War as a long-term shelter for Congress in the aftermath of a thermonuclear war. It is loosely alluded to at length in the closing scenes of the movie "Dr. Strangelove."

Further comment on the bunker in this context is unnecessary.


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