When Is $50 Million Not Enough?

Is America good enough for George Buckley? How much more can we do for a guy worth more than $50 million?

Buckley is the Chairman, President and CEO of 3M. And as Buckley told the Financial Times, “there is a sense among companies that this is a difficult place to do business. It is about regulation, taxation, seemingly anti-business policies in Washington, attitudes towards science.”

Buckley continued and explained that “politicians forget that business has choice. We’re not indentured servants and we will do business where it’s good and friendly. If it’s hostile, incrementally, things will slip away. We’ve got a real choice between manufacturing in Canada and Mexico — which tend to be pro-business — or America.” (See: 3M chief warns Obama over business regulation, February 27, 2011)

Wow. Amazing. You might think that Mr. Buckley is upset because 3M has run into tough financial times or that he has somehow suffered under the cruel lash of Washington.

In fact, Mr. Buckley is hugely successful. He just wants more.

Multi-Billion Profits

Most of us know 3M — once Minnesota, Mining & Manufacturing — a company that produces Scotch-brand adhesive tape and notes.

But 3M is actually a diversified manufacturer and distributor of many products. Not only that, 3M is very good at what it does: The company had huge profits in 2010 ($4,085,000,000), 2009 ($3,193,000,000) and 2008 ($3,460,000,000).

“Over the past five years,” says 3M, “the company has returned over $15 billion to shareholders through a combination of dividends and share repurchases. 3M has paid dividends to its shareholders without interruption for more than 94 years.”

At the same time, 3M dumped 3,500 workers in 2008 and 1,200 in 2010.

In February the company was able to announce still-another increased dividend — the 53rd consecutive year the company had raised dividends!

The $50 Million Man

As to Mr. Buckley, you won’t see him in a soup line anytime soon. In 2009, for example, Forbes Magazine reports that Mr. Buckley’s compensation was $14,935,793.00.

According to Equilar.com, Mr. Buckley is one of the 200 highest-paid corporate executives in America. The site estimates that by 2009 his accumulated wealth amounted to $54,905,045 from equity holdings, pension balances and deferred compensation.

$7 Billion Buy-Back

3M has plenty of money but instead of investing in new technologies, new American hires, or new facilities within our borders it’s using $7 billion to buy back stock.

The February buy-back announcement “reflects the strength of our business model and our confidence in the future,” said Buckley. “Our strong balance sheet and outstanding free cash flow allow us to fund growth investments and continue our legacy of returning significant cash to shareholders.”

Just how much more would it take for US business policies to be acceptable to Mr. Buckley? How much less regulation would be acceptable to keep 3M in Minnesota instead of Mexico? How much less taxation is enough? And what would we have to do to avoid accusations by Mr. Buckley of being anti-business?

Mr. Buckley owes an apology to 3M employees and executives — especially those who have lost their jobs. He owes an apology to the state of Minnesota, a place where 3M has done very well for more than a century.

And Mr. Buckley owes his resignation to the 3M board of directors.

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