Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Too Much

The ballplayers on last year's highest-paid baseball team, the New York Yankees, took home about $210 million. Most of those millions faced a 35 percent federal tax rate. Last week, the billionaire owner of the Yankees, George Steinbrenner, passed on. His four offspring now stand to inherit their old man's entire $1.15 billion estate — tax-free. Yankee luck? Not this time. Chalk the good fortune of the Steinbrenner clan off to political negligence, more specifically the 2001 tax cut legislation that erased all federal estate tax liability for the 2010 tax year. With Steinbrenner's death, four billionaires have now kicked the bucket since January 1. Their combined fortune: $13.65 billion. The total tax savings for their heirs: as much as $6 billion over what the heirs would have inherited if their rich relations had died last year. And what about next year? That remains up for grabs. The best estate tax restoration proposals currently before the Senate and the House would subject fortunes over a billion to a 65 percent federal estate tax rate . . .

A two-bit scam artist who cheats a little old lady will likely, if caught, get jail. A Wall Street bank that conspires to scam investors out of $1 billion apparently, when caught, just gets richer. Shares of Goldman Sachs jumped 5 percent last Thursday after the Securities and Exchange Commission announced Goldman had agreed to shell out $550 million to settle pending fraud charges. Goldman overall scored $13.4 billion in profits last year, over eight times the entire 2010 budget of the SEC, the federal agency responsible for policing Wall Street. Goldman's stock ended last week trading up nearly $9 a share. That boost added over $20 million to the personal portfolio of Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein . . .

Howard Schultz That $20 million might look like chump change, these days, to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. The Starbucks chief exec, the Corporate Library reports, is sitting on a $44.6 million windfall from the stock options he collected in fiscal 2009. The secret to his success? Schultz convinced Starbucks to quadruple the number of shares in his annual stock option grant, at a time when Starbucks shares were trading at a five-year low. This big option grant meant that Schultz could make a killing even if the Starbucks share price merely crept back to its pre-slide level. And that's exactly what has happened. Schultz has added royally to his already ample fortune, and ordinary investors — who bought Starbucks shares in the three years before the slide began — still have no gain to show for their investment . . .  


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