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Electronic Arts Shareholders Fire Shots in the Class Wars

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By Nelson Schneider - 08/16/20 at 04:27 PM CT

Thanks to my good fortune of being part of a successful family business, my Uncle Scrooge levels of frugality, and through my well-reasoned, non-bandwagoning, non-sleazy investments in the United States’ Stock Market, I own just shy of $800,000 worth of “value” in the corrupt corporate American economy. Of course, as a shareholder, I am frequently given the opportunity to “vote my shares” on a variety of issues. These issues, sadly, almost always boil down to three:

1) Should we keep the Directors of the Board?

2) Should we ratify Deloitte and Touche (or some other equally enormous and suspect accounting firm) to be the company’s CPA for the year?

3) Should we pass this executive compensation package?

Then, at the end of the shareholder ballot, there are occasionally a few shareholder proposals (that is, proposals written and submitted by private individuals who own company stock, not by the company’s executive apparatus) couched in a legalese framework of needing to be properly presented at the in-person meeting in order to be considered. These shareholder proposals nearly always show some shred of conscience:

1) Should the company be required to be transparent about its monetary political contributions?

2) Should the company be required to self-investigate and issue a report detailing the environmental impact of its activities?

And, of course, universally across every shareholder ballot I’ve seen and voted on in the decades of my begrudged-but-necessary participation in the corrupt world of Big Business, the Board of Directors encourages votes “For” the first three and votes “Against” the latter two (and any other shareholder proposals, no matter how benign). Naturally, I always do my duty as a Good Citizen and vote the OPPOSITE of the Directors’ recommendations, gleefully and emphatically checking the box AGAINST executive compensation in the vane and idealistic hope that my fellow shareholders might someday do the same. Unfortunately, my tens-of-thousands of dollars’ worth of shares in any given company are literal drops in the proverbial bucket when there are billions-of-dollars’ worth of votes still to be cast, largely by monolithic blocks of shareholding companies (also corporations) or 1% elites who, in all likelihood, sit on the various directorial boards themselves.

All that changed this past week when the shareholders for Electronic Arts, one of the Triumvirate of Evil in the “AAA” Games Industry and two-time (consecutive) winner of Worst Company in America, joined my one-man revolt and voted overwhelmingly (though, unfortunately, not unanimously) to deny the outrageous executive compensation package that was due to go to white-collar criminals like Andrew Wilson (who also sits on the Boards of Directors at Intel and thus draws TWO executive compensation packages simultaneously).

A large part of this compensation denial was orchestrated by shareholder advisor groups, like CtW (a group founded in 2006 to act as a watchdog against irresponsible and unethical corporate behavior… perhaps a little too late), who issued a statement which, to paraphrase, expressed concern about excessive enrichment of the executives to the detriment of the talented people who actually make the company run.

Let’s just take a look at what was actually denied, here: Named executives at EA were set to receive $3 to 10 million raises. At the lowest bump, Andrew Wilson would have received a nearly $1500 PER HOUR raise. At the high end, Blake Jorgensen would have received roughly an additional $4500 PER HOUR. These insane hourly rates (assuming a normal work year consisting of 2080 hours) wouldn’t have been the total of these executives’ compensation, but JUST THEIR ANNUAL RAISE stacked on top of their already egregiously bloated pay packages.

In what world is it “fair” or, indeed, “sane” for an executive class of people, who, let’s be clear, provide dubious “value” to the companies that pay them to squat in the penthouse like a flock of bloated harpies, to be paid THIS much money per hour, when the government is deadlocked on the idea of raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour from the laughable $7.25 is remains in most states in the Union? How is it even an argument that videogames produced by EA need to cost $10 more AND be riddled with microtransactions and subscriptions and DLC? If there is this much money floating around within EA, it shouldn’t be wasted on a board of stooges who perpetually vote to enrich themselves whilst corrupting and destroying the Games Industry (indeed, turning it into an “industry”), it should be invested in producing a better product and raking in the long-term gains of customers actually having faith in EA games again.

The sad fact of the matter is that in End Stage Capitalism, we’re all just too damned efficient, and the best way to accumulate wealth is to skim it and scam is in any way possible. In a 2018 book, “Bullshit Jobs” (summarized here), anthropologist David Graeber, proposed the groundbreaking hypothesis that up to 40% of today’s jobs are worthless, while a system of Corporate Feudalism empowers executives with the privileges of the nobility from ages past. It is in the interest of the Powers That Be to make us think that racism is the most divisive force in the modern world, but that’s just a misdirection, a dose of smoke and mirrors to conceal the fact that the class warfare that drove the French Revolution is still flourishing at the heart of contemporary society and politics. Who would have thought that it would be the greedy executives at something as trivial as a videogame company whose wanton behavior would begin to peel back the curtain and make corporate watchdogs react?

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