1:30 PM UPDATE: This is what GE boss Jeff Immelt told his in-house newsletter:
In a tough environment in 2008, we set a record for revenue and had our third-highest earnings year ever. Our earnings declined 19% versus a decline in S&P 500 earnings of 30%. That’s not the kind of outperformance we like, but it was still better than the broader market. During the year, we continued to execute in areas that give GE solid competitive advantage over the long-term: generating strong cash flow, leading in environmentally sound products and services, expanding in global markets, and investing in innovation, technology and leaders even in tough times.
However, earnings came in below where we expected. The broad equity markets, and GE’s stock price, declined significantly in 2008.
In these circumstances, I recommended to GE’s Board of Directors that I would not receive a bonus for 2008. In addition, I participated in a 2006-08 Long-Term Incentive Plan, along with 500 other GE executives. This results in a payout every three years based on the company’s performance against specific targets in earnings, growth, cash flow, and returns. GE met or exceeded three of the four operating goals set by the Board for this three-year period. But given the circumstances, I recommended to the Board that I not receive this payout. The Board agreed with my recommendations.
At the same time, it is important that the Board and I have the freedom to compensate our senior executives in a fair and reasonable way, consistent with performance against specific goals in 2008 and over the last three years. We believe that our senior executives’ compensation in 2008 reflects their contribution to GE.
These compensation decisions, which are addressed in our 2009 proxy statement, are consistent with GE’s performance culture as well as our commitment to developing strong global business leaders.
8:20 AM: So we’re supposed to feel better about the parent company of NBC Universal just because GE chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt won’t get a bonus in 2008, and is declining the entire $11.7 million earned under his long-term performance award. Now let’s get Rupert Murdoch, Sumner Redstone, Les Moonves, Bob Iger, Jeff Bewkes, and all the other overpaid Big Media chiefs whose stock prices have plunged to forgo their bonuses and other compensation and maybe, just maybe, they’ll have some credibility laying off workers, cutting production and expenses, and demanding that the Hollywood Guilds take lousy deals.