How Kristof arrived at the $17,000-an-hour figure

Just to show you I don’t just shovel this stuff into the paper…

You know the Nicholas Kristof column I bragged on, which calculated that Richard Fuld was making $17,000 an hour to run Lehman Brothers into the ground? Something started bugging me about the math when I was reading my proof, so I went to Mr. Kristof’s blog and posted the following:


I’m the editorial page editor of The State, the newspaper in Columbia, SC. I’m using your column on tomorrow’s op-ed page.

But I have a problem: How did you arrive at $17,000 an hour from compensation of $45 million? That would work if it were $35 million (assuming a 40-hour week, 52 weeks a year, and how else would you do it?), but at 45, you’d have to assume he was working 51 hours a week, which is an odd assumption to choose.

I need a quick answer. I’ve got to let this page go….

— Brad Warthen, Columbia, SC

That was at 4:34 p.m. At 5:12, I got this reply:

brad, thanks for your note, which was forwarded to me.
    I used 50 hours a week and then rounded. Failing to round seemed to me to suggest a false precision when the whole effort is so rough….
    allbest, nick

So he was being generous and assuming Mr. Fuld was working better-than-banker’s hours (which is a pretty safe assumption, whatever else you say about the overpaid so-and-so). Ol’ Dick’s got no room to complain, then…

Makes sense to me. I pass this on in case you read the piece and wondered the same thing. 

19 thoughts on “How Kristof arrived at the $17,000-an-hour figure

  1. bud

    Last night I was channel surfing between MSNBC and Fox News. It was fascinating seeing how the 2 networks look at the world. On MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow shoe the big topic of conversation was McCain’s incoherent babbling to an answer from a female Spanish reporter when she asked him a question related to US/Spain relations. He launched into this irrelevant discussion about Latin American issues. Even though the reporter kept trying to get a direct answer all McCain wanted to talk about was Mexico and Central America. It really was bizarre. Maddow also discussed Todd Palin’s refusal to testify in the Governor’s ongoing troopergate investigation. Both stories seem a bit overblown to me. The big news about troopergate to me is the STATED reason the DPS commissioner was fired. Palin basically said he was fired for trying to go after money to fight sex crimes. That, to me, is worse than the alleged “crime” she committed.
    Then I switched over to Fox and we had this over-the-top outrage over Governor Palin’s personal e-mail being illegally hacked. Bill O was positively going nuts over this. I thought he was going to blow a gasket. This was from a man who was OK with government wire-tapping. Please, spare me the outrage. If the perpetrator is found he should be prosecuted of course, but this really isn’t a huge deal. If Palin has nothing to hide why doesn’t she just release the e-mails anyway. If she was conducting State business using personal e-mails that’s a bit of a problem that should be exposed. Illegal hacking is not the way to do it of course, but really Bill O, spare me the outrage.
    Neither channel discussed the other’s BIG story while I was watching.

  2. just saying

    Now I feel let down, McNeil Lehrer spent most of the time calmly discussing the economy, so I missed all of the “important” news of the day!

  3. HP

    The only redeeming, sane part of any of last night’s news was a few moments of Ron Paul on the Glenn Beck show.
    It’s time to take John Prine’s well-intentioned advise:

  4. Brad Warthen

    You people who deliberately watch TV “news” are upsetting yourselves unnecessarily. And then you come and spill your anxiety on the rest of us.
    I truly believe everyone could consider the election, the economy, and the world at large more dispassionately and with a far greater sense of perspective if they would just turn the boob tube off. Or get rid of cable, at least. A channel that has to fill 24 hours with “news” will keep whipping people up and making them argue with each other over trivia, by necessity. That’s the only way you can fill every second on something that just came up. Theoretically, television could spend the 24 hours discussing an issue intelligently, but the legwork and preparation necessary to do that make it impossible to deal with breaking “news” (and “news” is itself defined by the medium as the latest thing people are yelling about, because that molds itself most conveniently to the vessel) in that fashion. And if you DO step back and spend weeks or more putting together a thoughtful presentation on some subject of import, you cease to be a “news” channel. You become PBS, or the History Channel.
    Since the channels themselves won’t do it, do it yourself. Step back. Get some perspective.

  5. bud

    I almost forgot about Bill Os whining about how bad Charlie Gibson came across on his Palin interview. Pleeez, give me a break. Palin was just plain awful in that interview. That’s what is important here. Whatever you think about Chaaarlie his performance is completely irrelevant.

  6. bud

    Political TV is a sport. We have team Fox vs. team MSNBC. As long as you don’t take it too seriously it’s very enjoyable. Whipping one’s self into a frenzy is actually fun. I guess someone that doesn’t watch college football just can’t appreciate that aspect of it.

  7. george32

    it’s not just tv news/commentary. talk radio is a contributor as is the good old al gore internet from whence i get emails on my john mccain blackberry advising me of the latest dumb actions by teenagers-hacking and unplanned pregnancy.

  8. Brad Warthen

    bud, you’re right — the thing that makes me dislike football is related to the reason why so much of our political discourse is a profound turnoff to me…
    That’s something I think I have in common with Barack Obama, and it’s something he gets criticized for. Detachment, or a lack of attachment to the passion of pulling for one side or the other. I think it helps explain things as disparate as his sitting and listening to Jeremiah Wright all those years on the one hand, and his “bitter” comment on the other. He has a tendency not to identify himself with what he’s observing. He thinks, “Yes, I suppose these preachers say such things,” or “it seems reasonable to assume these blue-collar folk would feel this way,” and in neither case is he positioning himself FOR or AGAINST a class or a race or a party; he’s just observing.

  9. HP

    Some people are quite skilled at detachment. You can jump up and down like the Aflac duck — spewing angst, and all they will muster up is something like,
    “Yes. Some say they’ll do that…..”

  10. Lenin Muller

    “He who lets the world, or his own portion of it, choose his plan of life for him, has no need of any other faculty than the ape-like one of imitation. He who chooses his plan for himself, employs all his faculties. He must use observation to see, reasoning and judgment to foresee, activity to gather materials for decision, discrimination to decide, and when he has decided, firmness and self-control to hold to his deliberate decision.”
    John Stuart Mill (1806 – 1873), On Liberty, 1859

  11. george32

    War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.
    john stuart mill-like wolfie, rush etc. he never quite got arond to serving in the military, but was happy to see others’ children sacrificed for his principles.

  12. Ralph Hightower

    “…” are sections not copied from the article.
    Life After Lehman Brothers

    As midnight approached on Sunday and the world anticipated a bankruptcy filing from Lehman Brothers, Mr. Fuld, the bank’s pugnacious chief executive, continued to work the phones, desperate to find a buyer for a venerable franchise he had saved from near death in the past.

    Lehman is already battling to avoid “job abandonment,” in which workers simply stop showing up even though they have not been formally laid off.
    Some of that was clearly happening on Monday as some of Lehman’s trading floors were only about two-thirds full. A rush of résumé-writing signaled the melancholy of an institution in its final days.
    The recent tears were absent from the scene, replaced by sad-eyed smiles and gallows humor. The bankers’ dress code was mostly out: while a few holdouts kept their ties knotted firmly, most of the traders moved around in jeans, casual shirts, even sneakers. One young employee showed up in a green Lehman T-shirt.

    Bottles of alcohol popped up on the equity trading floor around noon. A dark, squat bottle of Don Julio tequila shared desk space with a keyboard; two rows over, a glass container of 80-proof Monte Alban Mezcal appeared only half full. Pizza arrived soon afterward, two dozen boxes of square-cut slices that were quickly devoured.

    As Lehman began to wind down on Monday, executives at other banks continued to express amazement that Mr. Fuld did not move much faster to seek a buyer, as John A. Thain did in reaching a deal to sell Merrill Lynch to Bank of America over the weekend.
    “Fuld could have gotten a deal done a month ago,” said one senior Wall Street executive involved in the weekend’s negotiations. “Merrill saw how quickly things turned on Fuld, and they made sure the same didn’t happen to them.”

  13. Lee Muller

    Boards of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
    Fannie Mae
    James A. Johnson, former chairman and CEO: Aide to Vice President Walter Mondale; recently led Sen. Barack Obama’s vice-presidential search team.
    Jamie Gorelick, former vice chairwoman: Deputy attorney general under President Bill Clinton; former Defense Department general counsel; member of 9/11 Commission. She is the one who would not let the FBI talk to Army Intelligence and learn about the hijacker cells.
    Franklin D. Raines, former chairman and CEO: Budget director under Clinton. Now advisor to Barack Obama
    Thomas E. Donilon, former executive vice president: Former assistant secretary of state under Clinton; senior adviser to Michael Dukakis’ presidential campaign; national campaign coordinator for Walter Mondale’s presidential campaign; congressional liaison for President Jimmy Carter.
    Robert B. Zoellick, former executive vice president: Former deputy secretary of state and U.S.
    Trade Representative under President George W. Bush; currently president of the World Bank .
    Louis J. Freeh, board member: Director of the FBI under Clinton;
    Federal judge Stephen Friedman, former board member: Assistant to Bush for economic policy
    Michele Davis, former senior vice president: Deputy assistant to Bush; currently assistant secretary of the Treasury.
    Wayne Berman, outside lobbyist: Assistant Secretary of Commerce under President George H.W. Bush; senior adviser in Bush-Cheney presidential transition; currently a fundraiser for Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign.
    Steve Ricchetti, outside lobbyist: Deputy chief-of-staff to Clinton
    Kirsten Chadwick, outside lobbyist: Special assistant to President George W. Bush for legislative affairs; currently a fundraiser for McCain’s campaign.
    Freddie Mac
    Richard F. Syron, chairman and CEO: Deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury
    Ralph F. Boyd Jr., executive vice president: Assistant attorney general for civil rights
    Dennis DeConcini, former board member: U.S. senator from Arizona
    Robert R. Glauber, board member: Undersecretary of the Treasury under President George H.W. Bush
    David J. Gribbin III, former board member: Aide to Vice President Dick Cheney; assistant secretary of defense under President George H.W. Bush
    Harold Ickes, former board member: Adviser to President Clinton and Sen. Hillary Clinton; member of the Democratic National Committee. ( mastermind of Hillary’s failed socialized medicine scheme. His parents were Stalinists)
    Rep. Rahm Emanuel, former board member: Senior adviser to President Clinton; former chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.
    Susan Hirschmann, outside lobbyist: Chief-of-staff to former House Majority Whip Tom DeLay of Texas
    Michael J. Bates, outside lobbyist: Campaign official for President Reagan, presidential
    candidate Bob Dole, President Bush.
    Martin Paone, outside lobbyist: Secretary of the Senate
    J. Patrick Cave, outside lobbyist: Acting Assistant Secretary and Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury
    Susan Molinari, outside lobbyist: U.S. Congresswoman from New York

  14. slugger

    Jeepers Creepers. No wonder Fannie Mae and Freddie Mae exploded with people like this sitting on the boards.
    Thanks for the information. I wish you could find out how much they got paid for sitting on the board??? If they were paid any compensation, they should return every penny.

  15. Lee Muller

    Louis Freeh collected $50,000,000.
    Jamie Gorelick collected $26,000,000.
    Both of them came out of the Clinton Dept of Justice, and neiher one knows beans about stocks, bonds, mortgages or banking.

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