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As part of my commentary in this week’s issue of Business Insurance looking at some factors I think might affect the directors and officers insurance market, I mentioned the apparently low regard in which many in this country apparently hold top business executives.

If you haven’t read the column, I cited a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll released last week showing that most of those surveyed think companies’ chief executive officers are paid too much and doubt their sense of ethics.

A certain distrust of business probably isn’t too surprising, but I found the survey results somewhat shocking.

Among those surveyed, 61% said they believe CEOs of American companies are not ethical in their business practices, 44% saying they think CEOs are “not too ethical” and 18% saying they’re “not ethical at all.” Showing more trust in American business, 33% said they think CEOs are “mostly ethical.”

Particularly surprising, I thought, was that the group saying they think CEOs are unethical included 45% of those identifying themselves as Republicans—traditionally the party of business.

By an even greater margin, those surveyed by L.A.Times/Bloomberg also think American CEOs are overpaid. A whopping 81% think CEOs are overcompensated, according to the survey, vs. 14% who think they’re being paid the right amount and 1% who think they’re paid too little. I assume the latter group was made up of the CEOs who happened to be surveyed.

On a serious note, I can’t help but wonder if such attitudes have a way of manifesting themselves in the volume of litigation against American companies and jurors’ attitudes when those cases come to trial.


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