Is the SEC wielding a truth lasso?

January 17, 2008

images-4.jpegForget about Wonder Woman. As some proxies begin to filter in, it looks like Chris Cox and his band of enforcers at the SEC may be wielding their own truth lasso and getting companies to come clean about exactly how much they’re spending on the corporate jet.

How else to explain this proxy filed yesterday by Transdigm Group (TDG) which disclosed that Chairman and CEO W. Nicholas Howley spent $220K on his personal use of the corporate jet last year? For the past few years, Howley had spent exactly $86,106 on personal use of the corporate jet, which seemed more than a bit coincidental. If nothing else, fuel costs have inched up since 2005, so that should have accounted for some small increase.

And then there was the proxy filed by Deere & Co. (DE) two days ago, which showed that Chairman and CEO Robert Lane left Moline a lot more frequently in fiscal 2007 than he did in any prior year, ringing up $324K in personal use — a more than three-fold increase from the $97,315 spent in fiscal 2006.

Now, of course, it could just be that both of these executives simply took to the skies more than they had in prior years. But given how closely the SEC is picking through compensation information — even Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-A) wasn’t spared — it seems more likely that companies are becoming increasingly worried that the truth lasso will be wielded a lot more forcefully this year.

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