Many Publicly Traded Companies Organize ” Conferences” Or “Seminars” For Employees, Franchises, Etc. Is This An Appropriate Use Of Company Funds?

Prescott Valley, AZ Correspondent-It seems that most publicly-traded companies such as American Express, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Time Warner, Viacom, and hundreds of other companies associated with the New York Stock Exchange, NASDAQ, and NYSEMKT (formerly known as the American Stock Exchange),  organize and offer conferences and seminars for their employees and others, with the thought in mind of looking at more than just profits but also viewing the underlying benefit of treating employees in an admirable fashion, which is a positive benefit of retaining the best of the best while rewarding employees for their loyalty, dedication and hard work.

Responsible use of corporate funds for various company-sponsored events is obviously questioned when it comes to excesses, company blowback and general business standing, with the argument being whether such meetings are frivolous,  or just part of business promotion and profit turning.  Once again, the support of employee morale, confidence and well being through such meetings appears to be a positive and responsible use of company funds, but the question still arises as to whether such outside costs are prohibitive and risky for business in general, particularly when a company is obliged to its shareholders for possible outlandish expenditures, which ultimately requires justification for such conferences and seminars.

Shareholders are obviously aware of conferences, seminars and other organized events for company employees and the costs involved.  They are conscious of a company meeting stringent requirements that include financial disclosures and other reports that review the state of the company and its financial distributions.  Company administrators and shareholders realize that the added costs for special conferences and seminars require evaluation for effectiveness, usefulness and reinvestment purposes, and they further understand that conferences and seminars should remain in check yet allow for the strengthening of employee morale and company commitment.

With the strict financial provisions that publicly-traded companies adhere to, corporate excesses and partying on someone else’s dime are taken into strict advisement and consideration, and if such straying does occur, companies know and realize their reputations are on the line.  Obviously overindulgence and extravagance exists, but most publicly-traded companies pay heed to guidelines to prevent such extremes and misuse of funds.  The obligation of upholding shareholder interest is always in the back of management’s mind.

Employee conferences, seminars, forums and other organized meetings will always be part of the business agenda of publicly-traded companies, as they are integrated into a company’s structure that supports in house promotion of success, employee recognition, education, profit making, and return on investment, for itself and its shareholders.  Responsible use of funds for such meetings and events must remain reasonably controlled yet allow for employee enrichment, and in the end, reflect positive input for company growth, stability and sustainability.  

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-Corporate retreats have long been a “perk” of upper-class white collar management, and the amount of money spent on them occasionally beggars the imagination.  I once had a “management consultant” explain to me with a perfectly straight face that the practice was based on the concept of monastic retreats, where the cassocked folk would lock themselves in a remote location to meditate on God, the nature of faith, etc.

I’m sorry, but this simply doesn’t equate with a pack of overfed, liquor-swilling boardroom bozos jetting off to Fiji to debate the finer points of double-entry bookkeeping and “How to get employees to do more for less.” Much public outrage has come with the revelation of public funds spent for staff at the Social Security Administration to attend conferences and seminars in places like Las Vegas and Miami Beach.  Taxpayers are justifiably irate that their forced remunerations are being used so SocSec staffers can enjoy Vegas shows while learning how to be better government functionaries.

The same should be true of the shareholders of any corporation when its executives blow big bucks at exotic locales in the interest (allegedly) of running the company better.  While I’m all for spending a weekend in the mountains to clear my head occasionally, I don’t ask anyone else to pay for it.  I do this on my own dime, and my improved work performance increases my income.  It’s an investment in myself.

If these corporation officers and executives want to become better at their jobs, let them do so with the profit motive as their spur.  If they are awarded bonuses and pay raises solely connected to the performance of their stock and to employee satisfaction ratings (because I’d never condone whipping the horse to death to win a race), they’ll be willing to shell out a few grand of their own to attend the Coconut-Flavored Umbrella Drink Management Symposium in Bali.   

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