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Top 5 Newsmakers of 2006

December 29, 2006
Related Topics: HR Services and Administration, The HR Profession, Featured Article
There is a person behind every story. This is as true in business as it is in news stories. But people seldom make news all by themselves. Circumstances lend a hand.

    An Ohio congressman would still be pushing for pension reform had the bankruptcy of several airlines not threatened to undo the pensions of thousands of Americans.

    Two professors would have solved a mystery about the pricing of stock options, but no one would have cared if regulators had not probed into the misdeeds at several companies and the news media had not picked up the story.

    A chief securities regulator would see no need to change the way companies disclose executive compensation had certain CEOs not enriched themselves with millions of dollars unbeknownst to stockholders.

    A federal judge’s decision against one state’s law would have had limited impact if that law hadn’t already been copied in legislatures from coast to coast.

    And an executive chairman at one of the most prestigious American employers would not have been willing to pay investigators to sift through the garbage of reporters if she had not felt that leaks to the press were undermining her company’s strategic goals.

    These people, and their stories, are our top five newsmakers of 2006 (the professors come as a matched set). We’ve ranked them in order of the importance their actions had on employers and the workplace: U.S. Rep. John Boehner, for his work in pushing through pension reform in Congress; professors Erik Lie and Randall Heron, for first exposing the stock option backdating scandal; Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox, for responding to corporate scandals by calling for and pushing through new rules on disclosure of executive compensation; U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz, for a ruling that overturned a law calling for employers to spend more on health care; and Hewlett-Packard chairman Patricia Dunn, for being a living example of the law of unintended consequences—in her single-minded effort to address one corporate evil, she may have committed a worse one.

    If you believe we missed a prime mover in the world of workforce management news—either hero or villain—send a note to: We’ll offer alternate views in upcoming issues and on our Web site,


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