Today, Hostess Brands inc. — the company famed for its sickly sweet dessert snacks like Twinkies and Sno Balls — announced they’d be shuttering after more than eighty years of production.
But while headlines have been quick to blame unions for the downfall of the company there’s actually more to the story: before the company filed for bankruptcy, for the second time, earlier this year, it actually tripled its CEO’s pay, and increased other executives’ compensation by as much as 80 percent.
At the time, creditors warned that the decision signaled an attempt to “sidestep” bankruptcy rules, potentially as a means for trying to keep the executive at a failing company. The Confectionery, Tobacco Workers & Grain Millers International Union pointed this out in their written reaction to the news that the business is closing:
BCTGM members are well aware that as the company was preparing to file for bankruptcy earlier this year, the then CEO of Hostess was awarded a 300 percent raise (from approximately $750,000 to $2,550,000) and at least nine other top executives of the company received massive pay raises. One such executive received a pay increase from $500,000 to $900,000 and another received one taking his salary from $375,000 to $656,256.
It also follows a trend of rising CEO pay in times of economic difficulty. At the manufacturing company Caterpillar, for example, they froze workers’ pay while boosting their CEO’s pay to $17 million. And at Citigroup, CEO Vikram Pandit received $6.7 million for crashing his company, walking off with $260 million after the business lost 88 percent of its value.
The pay increase was given to Brad Driscoll, Hostess’ former CEO, in July 2011, before the company filed for bankruptcy. The salary was later cut from $2.5 million to $1.5 million, according to a Hostess spokesperson. The new CEO reduced the salaries of four senior executives to $1 until the company emerges from bankruptcy, and four junior executives who received raises had their salaries reduced to pre-raise levels, the spokesperson said.