Tech Company Breaks "No Greed" Rule

Layoffs and pay raises? What were they thinking?

By Scott Budman
|  Friday, Feb 27, 2009  |  Updated 6:26 PM PDT
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Greed is All that Matters at Silicon Valley Company

AP

Sure, lots of companies are laying off. But with executive pay raises?

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Greed is All that Matters at Silicon Valley Company

Amid massive layoffs, the Silicon Valley company angered just about everyone except its top employees when it laid off some while giving pay raises to others.
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Once again, it seems someone didn't get the memo.

When we, as a nation, recently decided that a company/bank/agency, in the face of big layoffs, can no longer add to the insult by giving executives extra money, someone apparently forgot to tell Spansion.

On the same day that Spansion (SPSN) announced 3,000 layoffs, it also announced a plan to give executives money back, which the company previously decided to cut in the name of good corporate citizenship.

So, massive job cuts and executive suite pay raises from a publicly traded company.

And it gets even better. Because unlike Wells Fargo, which after hearing the outcry from shareholders and other public citizens, canceled its plan to send employees to high-priced hotels in Las Vegas, Spansion responded to its own crisis -- with relative silence.

No executive would talk on camera, only a short printed statement expressing "regret" about the layoffs, and pointing out that some of those getting the raise were below the VP level. Do you suppose that makes any of the 3,000 who lost their jobs feel any better?

Apparently not, because some are now filing a lawsuit against the company, claiming that not enough notice was given before the layoff was announced. As for the executives and employees who got the money, I asked Jim Basallone of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University if he thought employee retention could be behind the pay boosts. Basallone, who comes to Santa Clara with decades of tech industry experience, asked me, in this market, where would they go?

He has a point.

He calls the message sent by the company "at best, insensitive to irresponsible."

At a time when public relations is of crucial importance, Spansion dropped the ball, plain and simple. But maybe they're not as worried about image as most other publicly traded companies. As I write this, Spansion stock trades at 5 cents a share.

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