eBay’s million dollar offer…

July 28, 2008

Back in April, eBay (EBAY) announced that Alan Marks, a veteran communications executive who had spent time at both Nike (NKE) and Gap (GPS), would be joining the company. As the press release noted, Marks was set to join eBay at the end of April and would be relocating to the Bay Area from Portland.

Yet it wasn’t until the 10Q that eBay filed on Thursday that some of the details of that employment are coming to light. According to the offer letter, Marks will get a $1 million bonus “to assist with you with the purchase of a home in the Bay Area.” If Marks stays at eBay for less than a year, he’ll have to repay the full bonus. The agreement also spells out other terms, including salary, options and bonus and six months of corporate housing. What’s also not really clear is why eBay waited until now to disclose a letter dated March 27. Perhaps it has something to do with managing communications.

As we’ve footnoted before, eBay is no stranger to helping its executives when it comes to real estate. But what’s really interesting here is how these types of bonuses — and there’s plenty of them as I first wrote about here — basically make a mockery of the Sarbanes-Oxley rules that prohibit companies from lending money to their top executives. Granted, this isn’t in the same league (or even solar system) as the $61 million in relocation bonuses that Dennis Kozlowski snagged from Tyco once upon a time — one of the reasons the rule became part of SOX. But it does beg the question as to why there’s a rule in place that is so easily flouted?

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