In the classic tale of corporate greed, Wall Street, the ruthless corporate raider Gordon Gekko’s young protégé, Bud Fox, asks how much money is too much. “How many yachts can you water ski behind?” asks Fox. Gekko calmly replies, “It’s all about bucks, kid. Everything else is conversation.”The subject of exorbitant executive compensation was an uncomfortable issue long before the current credit and housing crises wrested the majority of economic headlines. From the outcry over former New York Stock Exchange chair Dick Grasso’s $140 million contract, to the inexplicable $100 million severance package given to former Walt Disney Co. president Michael Ovitz, it’s almost unfathomable to most Americans how someone can justify such figures, regardless of a company’s performance.

While packages like the NYSE’s Grasso’s may elicit sporadic oohs and ahhs in a good economy, the current financial crises have placed a floodlight on the topic — amidst a spiraling number of foreclosures and anemic jobs data.

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