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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The golden bonanza

The word GOLDEN is part of our descriptive language

There is the GOLDEN goose that laid the GOLDEN eggs

Some people have a GOLDEN touch

There are GOLDEN opportunities, and at times silence is GOLDEN

A much more modern term is the GOLDEN handshake, varieties of which are the GOLDEN parachute, and the GOLDEN hello.

In the old days, we had chief clerks in banks, and town clerks in towns, and their clerkly equivalents in all kinds of businessess.  They did a good job at very reasonable rates, and they sort-of hovered in the background.  While their jobs were important, they were also regarded as relatively humble.

But now they have been replaced by managers who have written all that gold into their contracts.

Those managers might receive a golden hello, which is a large sum of money to welcome them on board. If the company goes bust, or is taken over by another company, then they are paid off handsomely with a golden parachute. And if they leave because of insoluble differences, they are paid off, often even more handsomely, with a golden handshake.

That these golden remunerations can be very handsome indeed is common knowledge. And they are particularly hated when it is also commonly known that the manager in question did a terrible job. The golden system really hit the news, though, when Daniel Vasella, the chairman of Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis, was offered a severance payment of seventy-eight million greenbacks.  The political backlash reached such tsunami proportions that a referendum was held, in which the Swiss electorate overwhelmingly voted to ban golden handshakes.

And because of the outcry, Vasella did not accept the huge sum of money.

Could we call it a GOLDEN gesture?

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