What’s the credit-score ding for short-timing it?

January 5, 2012

Few among us have never given a thought to our credit score: It usually comes up when you buy a house or take out an insurance policy, and the underlying credit history is sometimes even used to evaluate job candidates.

Which brings us neatly to Jordan W. Graham, who was an executive vice-president at Fair Isaac Corp. until earlier this year. Fair Isaac, of course, is the architect of the ubiquitous FICO credit score used to slice and dice consumers into various buckets of creditworthiness, and Graham’s position — trumpeted with great fanfare on his hiring in July 2010 — was to have a big role in that very business, to “direct the growth of the company’s FICO_© scores and myFICO_© businesses.” (We’d love it if he really did say those registered-trademark symbols, because we’re dying to know how they’re pronounced.)

At the time, Fair Isaac Chief Executive Mark Greene praised Graham’s experience as a former Citigroup, Match.com and Sun Microsystems executive, and said the company expected him “to make meaningful contributions to our business as a member of the FICO executive team and create value not only for credit grantors but for the American public…”

Here’s hoping he worked fast, because Graham stayed employed just shy of nine months after that announcement. On April 20, Fair Isaac disclosed his departure with a terse 34-word 8-K that chalked his departure up to “organizational changes resulting in the elimination of his position.”

From that, it isn’t clear whether Jordan was a lousy fit for the job and company, or whether Greene and the board were really bad at planning ahead (or perhaps just fickle), or whether perhaps something else entirely was going on. Whatever the case, Jordan was compensated pretty well for his troubles, though the details only became available yesterday.

According to the proxy that Fair Isaac filed yesterday morning, Jordan is walking away with nearly $1.5 million from his short stint. That includes his pay, as well as severance of a cool $1 million or so: 175% of his $450,000 base salary (totaling $787,500), a $225,000 guaranteed cash incentive payment for fiscal 2011, and continued health and life insurance for a year (a value estimated at $13,280, for which he presumably didn’t have to provide his FICO score).

All told, Graham worked about 266 days, weekends included, by our back-of-the-envelope calculation, which works out to roughly 190 week-days at $7,895 or so a day (and $987 an hour, if he worked a straight 40-hour week). Not bad for what turned out to be a temporary job, and he still has his part-time gig as a a director of RLI Corp. (RLI), where the company’s proxy says he made $125,000 in fees in 2010 (surprisingly low, in our experience, for a $1.5-billion market-cap company).

It’s harder to say how well Graham’s stint at Fair Isaac has worked out for shareholders. The company’s stock has seen a bumpy ride, but the shares have done pretty well since Graham was hired, up 43% in all; most of that time was tracking or modestly trailing the S&P 500, until the last three months or so.

Naturally, as a mere executive vice-president, Graham can’t take all the credit or blame for the stock performance while he was on the job. From the 10-Q that Fair Isaac filed on May 10 — covering the six-month period squarely during Graham’s tenure — it’s pretty tough to figure out how well he did, since both six-month segment tables are headed “Six Months Ended March 31, 2011” (even though presumably, one is really for the prior-year period). In other filings, Fair Isaac puts the comparison period second, so assuming that’s the case, operating income for the Scores segment through March 31, 2011, fell 6.1% on a revenue decline of 2.7%.

Make of that what you will. In the end, we doubt that Graham’s short stint at Fair Isaac made much of a ding in his credit score, if employment tenure even factors into the calculation (though pretty much everything else under the sun seems to affect your credit score, so why not, right?).

As for scoring Fair Isaac itself, if we were in charge, we’d bump it down a notch for spending an awful lot of money on a temp, however experienced.

Image source: Brick wall with light effect and clock photo via Shutterstock.com

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