–Genuine incentives are important, for employees and for the climate crisis
By Mathew Carr
Dec. 22-24, 2021 — OK I’m going to take one for the team, here. Give up a little privacy and potentially open myself up to a lot of criticism for middle-upper-class “moaning” and for being “disgruntled”.
I do feel the need to defend my reputation and speak up for fairness. (Please feel free to comment, especially if you think I’M the one being unfair.)
I’m a journalist born in country Australia and when I was headhunted by Bloomberg News back in 2000, I was told I would be rewarded according to the value I added while in its employ.
Turns out, that’s not quite right, I contend.
I was granted “equity equivalency certificates” on employment and afterwards, which did mean I was on the receiving end of sometimes-great bonuses, especially for a journalist. The firm grew quickly.
Over time the compensation system changed and EECs as they were known were apparently phased down / out.
In 2011 my employer said I might get as much as a £65,000 pounds ($87,000 equivalent today) bonus when Bloomberg LP hit a total annual global revenue of $10 billion. The sooner that happened, the bigger the bonus.
Bloomberg reporters generally were already paid above the media-industry average and, for that, I’m grateful. We also worked an extra day effectively each week. Mandatory 10-hour days.
On top of the salary, there were benefits and perks such as private health insurance and pension-contribution matching. There are a lot of super things about the firm.
By around this time (2011), the wider team and I had helped set up lucrative power, carbon, natrual-gas business in Europe for Bloomberg LP, turning over more than $25 million a year (I estimate).
I was told to “do for natural gas what you did for carbon”. Which I did, with talented colleagues.
I was also, meanwhile, telling my bosses about missed opportunities in climate news.
Around 2015, I apparently fell out of favor, at least with some – it’s still not clear.
Bloomberg LP says it was about my slowing performance (even though my performance metrics show otherwise). I say it was about retaliation for pushing for better climate news.
I was fired in May 2020, after about five years of on-and-off performance management. The Employment Tribunal earlier this month concluded my dismissal was roundly fair, though there were unfair elements, and that it wasn’t about whistleblowing.
In the end, my total yearly compensation was below my peak. (No, I’m not saying what it was.)
And what of the long-term incentive bonus?: I got about £22,000 around March 2019 — about one third of the upside stated around 2011. Had I been fired before then I would have missed it, entirely.
This is still a lot by most standards, especially for a journalist (and especially for the 7 billion poorest people on earth who have not caused much of the climate crisis).
So, again, I’m grateful and for the learning and mostly great colleagues.
The point I want to make about it is this:
If you are a global conglomerate, or any employer, really, and want to attract and incentivize good people with promises, make sure they are genuine.
I feel I was misled both in 2000 and in 2011 (many others at Bloomberg may feel that way too, or may not feel it, I’m not sure. I have not asked).
A key point on the $10 billion, though. Bloomberg waited until mid 2018 to put a paywall on its website news, almost 11 years after the Financial Times. Around 2007, the Wall Street Journal reportedly celebrated its millionth online subscriber. The New York Times started charging in 2011.
Three years after it did install the paywall, Bloomberg’s online news is now very lucrative, I hear.
Getting back to my point about offering genuine incentives, I wonder if the firm would have hit $10 billion much earlier had it introduced the paywall earlier, benefitting all employees in the long-term program.
We’ll never know, of course, just like we’ll never know how much money Bloomberg LP would have made had it reported on the climate crisis in a better way (like I contend the Financial Times does).
It reminds me of a key problem with global climate action.
Rich countries have offered FUTURE carbon-market revenue to emerging nations in the United Nations climate talks for years / decades.
Under the UN’s Kyoto Protocol, emerging nations were offered hundreds of millions of US dollars of potential revenue from selling carbon credits. Both the USA and Canada never showed up to the UN deal even after being behind it initially — crucially, when it was struck.
That is the key point in any deal – when it’s struck. (In my case it was when I decided to leave my previous job at the Australian Financial Review and join Bloomberg)
The carbon credit money under Kyoto, and also the promised $100 billion / year climate finance by 2020, has so far largely not turned up for emerging nations (but might do in a limited way under the Glasgow climate deal struck last month).
If it does show up, it could benefit most of the 8 billion people on earth and benefit the UN climate talks process. Will the private-sector-stoked Glasgow climate pact be different? I’m not sure, yet.
For more on my dispute, search for “Bloomberg” on the CarrZee.org home page.
Search “Kyoto” on the Carrzee.org home page.
“Non-whistleblowing” at Bloomberg published Dec. 22:
Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
(Adds Kyoto and Glasgow pact context)