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Highlights—November 22, 2008

  • Forbes: IBM's Chief Isn't Blue. By Robyn Meredith. Excerpts: i don't know about you, but I've had enough with waking up to bad news every day since the market turmoil began two months ago. I'm through with looking at clouds. I'm focusing on silver linings from now on. Which brings me to IBM Chairman and Chief Executive Samuel Palmisano, who insists, "This is a great time!" ...

    More and more of the future will take place in developing countries instead of mature markets like the U.S., Europe and Japan--all of which are now in recession. International Business Machines has already turned to India and China in a big way: About 75,000 of Big Blue's 385,000 employees are in India and more than 10,000 are in China. Those countries are a given for both revenue growth and cost cutting, for multinational companies large and small.

    But IBM is looking "beyond the BRICS," Palmisano said. While the West stagnates, IBM is expanding in 16 countries, including Indonesia, Vietnam, Mexico and various Eastern European nations. ...

    Yes, most of the salaries demanded in emerging markets are lower. But that's not all. Palmisano personally opened IBM's Shanghai research facility. The way he sees it, Western companies are finding new sources of potentially world-class talent and all the hiring activity helps create middle-class jobs--and consumers--in countries where those were scarce.

    He admits that hiring cheaper workers overseas sometimes displaces American workers. And he said the U.S. workforce needs to be better prepared for coming dislocations. IBM, which has hired so fast overseas, is encouraging employees to keep their skills up to date by offering "Personal Learning Accounts"--kind of like 401(k) accounts for continuous learning.

  • The Four Hundred: Layoffs--Possibly Including Frank Soltis--at IBM Rochester. By Timothy Prickett Morgan. Excerpts: According to a posting on the Midrange-L mailing list, where a lot of the AS/400 intelligentsia hang out to talk and gripe, IBM apparently had some layoffs at the Rochester, Minnesota, home of the AS/400 and its successors. And, if what long-time and staunch AS/400 enthusiast Neil Palmer said in the post is true, the chief architect of what used to be called the System i until last year is getting ready to leave the building. ...

    More ominously, in a second posting at Midrange-L, Palmer says that one of the people who IBM will let go is none other than Frank Soltis, the architect of the System/38 and AS/400 and the man who was given the title of chief architect of its successor platforms but with not much more than a mandate to move to converged hardware, middleware, and now virtualization layers. IBM spokespeople were unable to confirm this as we went to press on Friday, but the departure of Soltis would not be much of a surprise. Money is power in this world, and in a decade the AS/400 has shrunk from a $4 billion or so systems business to maybe a little over $1 billion, not including tools and services. And while a lot of that $1 billion is still profit, and there are lots of services and other products that go into i shops, with the economy in the tank, IBM may very quickly have a lot of layoffs, not just in Rochester.

  • The Register: Papermaster countersues IBM over Apple gig. 'Your chip secrets are safe with me'. By Austin Modine. Excerpts: Apple executive-in-waiting Mark Papermaster is countersuing his former employer IBM for attempting to bar his employment in Cupertino. IBM recently sued the former chip guru and longtime staffer in New York federal court, accusing him of breaking his non-compete agreement. Big Blue says his intimate knowledge of IBM's Power microprocessor technology makes him a security risk at Apple. ...

    Papermaster's counterclaim argues that the companies are not significant competitors and that he'll be doing completely unrelated work at Apple to what he was doing at IBM. He also claims the non-compete agreement is unreasonably broad in that it would restrict him from "working anywhere in the world based on the global scope of IBM's business" for an entire year. The claim also points out that Papermaster has lived and worked in Austin, Texas for nearly a decade while the non-competition agreement is governed by the laws of New York.

    "Mr. Papermaster has no substantial relationship to New York, in that he has resided and worked in Texas for the past 17 years, and he is going to work for Apple, which is a California corporation," the filing states. "Both states hold that such noncompetition agreements are unenforceable as a matter of public policy."

  • ZD-Net: Sun cuts 5,000 to 6,000 jobs. By Larry Dignan. Excerpt: Sun said Friday that it will lay off 15 percent to 18 percent of its workforce–or 5,000 to 6,000 people–as it restructures amid weak demand, a series of poor quarters and a business model that rallies around open source software. Add it up and Sun is looking to save about $700 million to $800 million annually.
  • Computerworld: Can Obama reverse job offshoring? By Patrick Thibodeau. Excerpts: The chart above, prepared by IT services firm Affiliated Computer Services Inc. for investors, illustrates how this company is shifting jobs overseas. In the span of a few years, the offshore headcount has increased from about 25% to 35% of the company's workforce, now at about 63,000. And this Dallas-based company isn't moving low-level jobs overseas. It's going much deeper. "To have a greater financial impact, we will be moving a higher percentage of more complex, higher paying jobs offshore, including management and application development roles," ACS President and CEO Lynn Blodgett said during an investors call last week.

    Other IT vendors are doing the same thing. The only difference is that most of the other vendors don't produce charts for public consumption as detailed as the one above. Outsourcing vendors across the board are moving jobs overseas to cut their own costs and stay competitive with the Indian outsourcing firms.

    The tools that President-Elect Barack Obama has to change this trend, especially during a recession, aren't clear. All the outsourcing vendors have government contracts. And even if state, local and federal agencies bar the use of offshore development in some of their contracts, government agencies are using the same offshore developed software modules as the private sector. Any government agency that has a support contract today with a major vendor is getting support, in one form or another, offshore.

  • National Public Radio (NPR): Retirement Tips For An Economic Crisis. What are your investment options if you're nearing retirement? Or if retirement's many years away? How can the Great Depression give us perspective on today's crisis? Guest host Lynn Neary talks with Gail MarksJarvis, a personal finance columnist for the Chicago Tribune for survival investment tips.
  • Workforce Management: Retirement Out of Reach. With pensions and retiree health benefits largely things of the past—and financial markets devastating 401(k)s—companies are at risk of losing their competitive edge if they become storehouses of embittered older employees who put in only the minimum effort to keep their jobs. By Jessica Marquez. Excerpt: Even before the recent market melt­downs, David, a 47-year-old engineer who lives in Portland, Oregon, was worried about being able to retire in 20 years. With two young boys in school, a mortgage and only David working full time, he and his wife, Stephanie, were growing increasingly concerned about their lack of savings. So they met with a financial advisor. It turned out that they were right to be worried. "The advisor said that if we saved very aggressively, I might be able to retire in my early 70s," he says. "It wasn’t quite what I was hoping to hear." And that was before David and Stephanie, like millions of other Americans, saw their retirement accounts pummeled by the credit crisis and its effect on the stock market.
  • New York Times: What Has Driven Women Out of Computer Science? By Randall Stross. Excerpts: ELLEN SPERTUS, a graduate student at M.I.T., wondered why the computer camp she had attended as a girl had a boy-girl ratio of six to one. And why were only 20 percent of computer science undergraduates at M.I.T. female? She published a 124-page paper, “Why Are There So Few Female Computer Scientists?”, that catalogued different cultural biases that discouraged girls and women from pursuing a career in the field. The year was 1991.

    Computer science has changed considerably since then. Now, there are even fewer women entering the field. Why this is so remains a matter of dispute.

    What’s particularly puzzling is that the explanations for under-representation of women that were assembled back in 1991 applied to all technical fields. Yet women have achieved broad parity with men in almost every other technical pursuit. When all science and engineering fields are considered, the percentage of bachelor’s degree recipients who are women has improved to 51 percent in 2004-5 from 39 percent in 1984-85, according to National Science Foundation surveys.

  • New York Times: After Losses, Pensions Ask For a Change. By Mary Williams Walsh. Excerpts: Stung by outsize investment losses, some of the nation’s biggest companies are pushing Congress to roll back rules requiring them to put more money into their pension funds, just two years after President Bush signed a law meant to strengthen the pension system. ...

    Many of the companies now calling for relief have sprawling, mature pension funds with obligations so big they can dominate the companies’ own financial performance. Mr. Zion has identified nine big companies whose pension obligations are more than five times the size of their single largest liability on their balance sheets; six have signed the letter: the NCR Corporation, I.B.M., Rockwell Collins, the ITT Corporation, Northrop Grumman and the Pactiv Corporation.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Biz lobbies for a pension break" by "ibmmike2006". Full excerpt: In the late 80's there were 125,000 defined benefit pension funds, today there are less than 17,000. How is that possible? Everything is possible if you have support of our Government, you know who those guys are, the three branches, Judicial, Congress, and the President. Have you ever wondered how the Fortune 500 had such outrageous profits in the 90's?

    Ever heard of Vapor Profits? Where do you think the defined benefit pension funds disappeared to? Do you think that the defined benefit pensions funded the Fortune 500 profits via the back door with the blessing of our Government thanks to the financial lobbyists? CEO compensation increased from 40 times entry level employees wages to 400 times in that period. Did those companies invent something that increased their profits? Naw, the profits were enhanced from the Pension funds.

    Today there is talk about government bailout of EVERYONE. Ted Turner was on a talk show on how he never got bailed out by the government when CNN was in trouble early on, he convinced private investors to get him out of hot water.

    There lies the problem, all the "skimmers" who make money skimming off wall street investments are looking for someway to cover their butts and not be sued for $billions by those they skimmed from before the crisis by having the taxpayer pick up the tab for their risky losses. So far, looks like Poulson and the rest of his financial bank buddies are on their way to pulling off the biggest heist of the American Taxpayer in History.

    Ken Chenault of American Express, IBM board of directors member, was in major magazines bragging how well he managed American Express to record profits last year. Today, he is asking Congress for $2.5 Billion. As Jay Leno said, "When I get my bill from American Express, can I send a note with my bill to take my payment from the "bailout" money I am paying for in taxes? Fat chance of that.

    There seems to be a love affair with our government with the banks and hedge fund managers, making billions of dollars last year. How did they do that?

    Have you ever heard of "skimming off the top"? They used to call that embezzlement. When a stock option is exercised, it is skimming from the IRA's, pension funds, mutual funds, stocks, 403b's, 457's, and 429's of the American people. When you read of banks making huge profit, did they make something? No, they skimmed off the top, and no one, in our government was watching them. When you read about American Express making $billions in profit, did they make something? No, they just charge 29% interest if you are one day late on a statement mailed 7 days before the due date of the bill.

    Henry Poulson, US Treasurer is worth $700 million thanks to stock options from Goldman Sachs as CEO in 2006. Now he is dolling out $700 Billion to his old company, Goldman Sachs and his other "de-regulated" buddies in the financial banking system.

    Have you noticed how the price of gas has dropped in half? Could it be that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission is doing their job and not looking the other way when it came those 10 commodity futures companies making $13 billion in profit in 2007?

    What the hell is going on here? Who is watching out for the American people today?

    If you fly in a helicopter, 100,000 feet in the air with radar that cuts through all the baloney, spin, press releases, rationalization, political speak, and just plain bunk, it should be clear how all these few guys are putting billions of dollars in their sock. It is not from inventing something or making something, it is skimming with financial schemes from those who invent, make things, and work for a living, namely the American people.

  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree Information Exchange message board: " Re: IBM wants to step away from Retirement obligations" by "madinpok". Full excerpt: What IBM and other companies are asking for is a change in the laws about how quickly they have to make up any underfunding in their pension plans.

    Under the Pension Protection Act of 2006, the rules were tightened to force companies to calculate the value of their pension plans so that they better represented the value of the investments the plan has at a given point in time. Previously, the value was average over many years to smooth out sudden increases and decreases in the market value. That long term averaging was viewed as bad because it allowed some companies to hide the fact that their plans were seriously underfunded and to avoid taking any action until it was too late.

    The new rules attempted to fix that, but now have their own "bad" aspect, at least from the companies' point of view. In a large, sudden down turn like the stock market it is currently experiencing, many pension plans have become underfunded - at least for the moment. This will require the companies to contribute some large amounts of money to the plans. But in a year or two, it is likely the stock market will recover, making those contributions unnecessary in hindsight.

    The trouble is, there is no way to tell. Maybe the markets will recover quickly, maybe they won't. If you are an employee/retiree, you'd like to see the pension plan fully funded so you can be assured of your pension in the future. If you are the company, you'd rather not put up any extra money right now when the economy is bad. Having to do so might make the financial health of the company worse.

    In my opinion, the companies are trying to take advantage of the bad economy to try and loosen up on the regulations. I don't view that as a sign that they want to walk away from their obligations completely. Just that they want some greater latitude in funding their pension plans. But if a company is not healthy, that may increase the risk of the retirees getting the short end of the stick.

    Although the Pension Protection Act of 2006 says that plans should be 100% funded, it also recognizes that plans may become underfunded due to fluctuations in asset values.

    Companies whose pension plans are underfunded have 7 years to get the plan back to 100% and must amortize the amount of the underfunding over that period. That is, they must add a significant portion of the underfunded amount each year.

    If the underfunding is due to a market downturn, it is likely that the market will reverse itself during that time and help close the gap. However, the company can not assume that will happen and contribute nothing in the hope that the market will take care of the problem.

    In the case of IBM, IBM's U.S. pension fund had a value of $57,191 million at the end of 2007 and obligations $46,323 million. Thus, it was over funded to the tune of $10,868 million, or 23%.

    A report from someone over on the IBMpension group says that the pension fund has lost 22% so far this year. If that is correct, that would suggest that the current value of the fund is about $44,609 million. That means it would now be underfunded by $1,714 million, or 3.7%

    With 7 years to close this gap, IBM would have to contribute about $244 million to the fund this year to be in compliance with the Pension Protection Act. They could easily make that contribution out of cash on hand (IBM had $9,755 million in cash as of Sept 30, 2008). Or, IBM might chose to contribute shares of stock to the fund, as they have done in the past.

    The ERISA regulations prevent IBM from removing money from the pension fund without incurring severe penalties. Also, even if IBM were to terminate the pension plan, they are still obligated to pay each and every employee and retiree their vested benefits.

    In addition, IBM can not simply dump the pension plan and turn it over to the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation. The PBGC would only get involved if the pension plan was underfunded and IBM went bankrupt. Then, the rules of the PBGC would come into play and the pensions of some retirees might be reduced. For 2008, the PBGC guarantees pensions up to $51,750.00 (this is an age 65 amount).

    Despite the significant downturn in the market, I see no signs that make me worry about the IBM pension fund and IBM's ability to keep it fully funded at this point. Sorry for the long post. I hope it helps put you at ease.

  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree Information Exchange message board: "Re: Russian Roulette" by Kathi Cooper. Full excerpt: When planning for that doughnut hole, President Elect Obama would: 1) close the doughnut hole in the Medicare Part D prescription drug program. 2) allow the federal government to negotiate for lower drug prices for the Medicare program. 3) allow seniors to import safe prescription drugs from overseas. 4) eliminate subsidies to the private insurance Medicare Advantage program. (assumes his election platform comes to fruition, a high probability given all Democratic congress) http://www.hr.cch.com/news/benefits/111008.asp
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: I'm now an ex-IBMer and am accelerating my move back to New York City" by Michael Nalasco. Full excerpt: As a former IBM'er myself, here is some hope and advice:
    • You will find that you can make a better wage once you leave IBM. IBM got away with paying low wages for years because they told their employees that they would have a long career, so the employee put up with low wages. Once I left IBM and Vermont my wages when up 20K/year from where I left IBM.
    • Now that you at back in the real world, you are free. Every company I have worked at since IBM treated me fairly in an appraisal, PBC's are garbage! No one else I have worked for since IBM used a pyramid, or bell curve to appraise employees. Essentially, they either want you to work for them or they want you to leave.
    • Use your network to find a new job. Using this chat room is a good start, but call all of your former co-workers and friends and see if they can help you. That is your biggest asset by far. Believe me, your friends (at IBM) will need you and your network when IBM fires them too.

    Keep your chin up, above all don't give up, and good luck, Thanks, M. Nalasco.

  • Washington Post: Growing Sense Of Outrage Over Executive Pay. By Heather Landy. Excerpts: The public's indignation over lavish executive pay has rippled beyond the circles of activist investors and corporate governance watchdogs, who for years have wrung their hands over compensation practices. It has spread even beyond grass-roots community organizers and public policy think tanks to people who make their living in the financial industry, like money manager William Fitzpatrick. "This is a topic that doesn't really get a whole lot of attention during more benign economic times, but clearly this is something that really got away from us. As a profession, we really kind of fell asleep at the switch here," said Fitzpatrick, who helps oversee about $1 billion at Optique Capital Management in Milwaukee.

    Compensation is being scrutinized as never before, especially on Wall Street, where the year-end bonus season is coinciding with a government bailout of finance companies. At a time when the average taxpayer already is feeling stretched, public money is being used to support an industry that paid out $33 billion of bonuses last year. Wall Street itself blames the compensation system for playing a role in the credit crisis by encouraging excessive risk-taking. ...

    "Wall Street, when I began my career, had no public companies. They were private partnerships where executives had their personal wealth at stake, and they developed their risk-reward system when it was their own money at risk," said Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, an associate dean at the Yale School of Management. "They've kept that system, but it's other people's money at risk now. That's kind of outrageous." ...

    Greg Coleridge, a director of the committee, said the pay issue is a new manifestation of economic injustices that have long concerned the Quaker social action group, and one that has struck a nerve with members. "We have public dollars coming from taxpayers, people who are having an increasingly difficult time in our corner of the world in Ohio, being transferred" to Wall Street, said Coleridge, who works in Cuyahoga Falls, north of Akron. "The leverage these dollars provide gives someone inside government an opportunity, and maybe in fact the responsibility, to provide some kind of limit on executive pay."

  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree Information Exchange: "Russian Roulette" by Wilmer Haas. Full excerpt: Selecting a Medical/Prescription Plan for IBM retirees is a game of Russian Roulette - the only difference is that no matter when you pull the trigger (select a plan) - the gun goes off! IBM and the other insurance providers have the at their disposal, to insure you don't, the most powerful computer systems in the world and the enormous data base on costs and probabilities of occurrence. We have, on the other hand, our puny home computers and some history of our expense to predict what will the best deal for us in the future year of 2009! IBM and the suppliers always win!

    Case in point: One option that looks pretty good for us over 65 gang is the IBM Aetna "Medicare Open Plan". What you don't find in the info they have supplied is that for prescription there is a "donut hole" . You enter the Hole when the "total costs", that is what you pay and what they pay (without subtracting the rebates and discounts the drug suppliers give Aetna) reaches only $3,700. After that you pay 100% until you leave the Hole by amassing $4,100 of your out of pocket costs.

    For any couple over 65, this rule applies to each person separately and for many of us we will reach the hole before the year is out! So be forewarned and fore armed! Wilmer Haas a 1990 San Jose retiree.

  • Time: More Company Benefits Come Under the Knife. By Jeremy Caplan. Excerpts: When the ax isn't enough, out comes the scalpel. Having laid off tens of thousands of workers, corporations and small businesses are looking for new fat to trim. In September, 2,269 companies had mass layoffs, according to Sirota Survey Intelligence, each affecting 50 or more employees. But many companies are still bleeding cash and desperately searching for novel ways to eke out savings.

    That's why benefits are the next big target. For every employee who makes $75,000, a company typically spends $30,000 more in benefits. So for employees who still have jobs after cost-cutting layoffs, the potential for more pain lies ahead. Health insurance is traditionally the revenue drain that budget hawks focus on, with costs averaging $10,000 per employee (about $6,000 for singles and $14,000 for those supporting a family). "I expect that by January, the number of people without health insurance will rise above 50 million as companies scale back," says Bruce Raynor, president of Unite Here, a labor union that represents half a million workers in a variety of industries. (Read "Putting Health Care on an Energy Diet.")

  • CNN/Money: Georgia outsources IT in 2 large contracts with IBM, AT&T. Excerpt: Georgia has awarded a pair of big computer contracts to IBM and AT&T. The outsourcing is expected to save the state $180 million over several years. Ninety-two Georgia Technology Authority workers will lose their jobs under the plan. One eight-year, $873 million contract was awarded to IBM and a second five-year $346 million contract went to AT&T. Each was the sole bidder.
News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
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  • New York Times: The Wrong Place to Be Chronically Ill. Excerpts: Chronically ill Americans suffer far worse care than their counterparts in seven other industrial nations, according to a new study by the Commonwealth Fund, a New York-based foundation that has pioneered in international comparisons. It is the latest telling evidence that the dysfunctional American health care system badly needs reform.

    The results of the study, published by the respected journal Health Affairs, belie the notion held by many American politicians that health care in this country is the best in the world. That may be true at a handful of pre-eminent medical centers, but it is hardly true for the care provided to a huge portion of the population.

    The Commonwealth Fund’s survey of 7,500 patients in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Britain and the United States focused on patients who suffered from at least one of seven chronic conditions: hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, lung problems, cancer or depression.

    The care they received in this country — or more often did not receive — ought to be a cause for shame. More than half of the American patients went without care because of high out-of-pocket costs. They did not visit a doctor when sick, skipped a recommended test or treatment or failed to fill a prescription. The uninsured suffered most, but even 43 percent of those who had insurance all year skipped care because of costs.

  • Wall Street Journal: Small Firms Shiver as Health Premiums Rise. By Vanessa Fuhrmans. Excerpt: Already struggling in a tough economy, many small employers are about to face another big hit: markedly higher increases in health-insurance premiums as they head into 2009. For many of these companies, the steeper increases couldn't come at a worse time, when the economy is weakening and credit is harder to come by. "We can't pass these costs on to our customers; the market just won't bear it," said Daniel Lance, who owns E.CAB, a St. Petersburg, Fla., firm that produces finishes and fixtures for elevator-cab interiors.
  • Wall Street Journal: Tom Daschle’s Big Idea: A Fed for Health Care. By Jacob Goldstein. Excerpts: The FDA, the CDC, Medicare and Medicaid all fall under one federal department: Health and Human Services. Tom Daschle, the former leader of the Senate Majority Leader, will soon be in charge of all that: The news just broke that he’ll be Obama’s HHS secretary. The Health Blog, among others, had put Daschle on the short list for the job. And he’s gone to the trouble of writing a book about health care (Critical: What We Can Do About the Health Care Crisis, published in Feb.) to give us a pretty clear sense of where he’d like to take things.

    His basic idea: Create a board modeled on the Federal Reserve to “offer a public framework within which a private health-care system can operate more effectively and efficiently — insulated from political pressure yet accountable to elected officials and the American people.”

  • New York Times: Insurer Offers Option for Surgery in India. By Roni Caryn Rabin. Excerpts: The health insurer Wellpoint is testing a new program that gives covered patients the option of going to India for elective surgery, with no out-of-pocket medical costs and free travel for both the patient and a companion. The program is being tested at Serigraph, a printing company in Wisconsin whose managers have been looking for ways to curb rising health care costs, said Dr. Razia Hashmi, chief medical officer for national accounts for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which is affiliated with Wellpoint. ...

    By the year 2010, more than 6 million Americans annually will be seeking medical treatment abroad, according to the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, a consultancy. The potential savings are significant. Knee surgery that costs $70,000 to $80,000 in the United States can be performed in India for $8,000 to $10,000, including follow-up care and rehabilitation, Dr. Hashmi said. Similar savings could be achieved for such common procedures as hip replacements and spine surgery.

News and Opinion Concerning the U.S. Financial Crisis
Minimize "It is a restatement of laissez-faire-let things take their natural course without government interference. If people manage to become prosperous, good. If they starve, or have no place to live, or no money to pay medical bills, they have only themselves to blame; it is not the responsibility of society. We mustn't make people dependent on government- it is bad for them, the argument goes. Better hunger than dependency, better sickness than dependency."

"But dependency on government has never been bad for the rich. The pretense of the laissez-faire people is that only the poor are dependent on government, while the rich take care of themselves. This argument manages to ignore all of modern history, which shows a consistent record of laissez-faire for the poor, but enormous government intervention for the rich." From Economic Justice: The American Class System, from the book Declarations of Independence by Howard Zinn.

  • Forbes: Washington's $5 Trillion Tab. By Elizabeth Moyer. Fighting the financial crisis has put the U.S. on the hook for some $5 trillion a report says. So far. Excerpt: For all the fury over Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's $700 billion emergency economic relief fund, it seems downright puny when compared to the running total of the government's response to the credit crisis. According to CreditSights, a research firm in New York and London, the U.S. government has put itself on the hook for some $5 trillion, so far, in an attempt to arrest a collapse of the financial system.
  • Wall Street Journal: Our Risk, Wall Street’s Reward. By William D. Cohan. Excerpts: Since compensation has historically consumed half or more of every dollar of revenue generated on Wall Street — what other business even comes close? — there is no better way for companies to improve their profitability than by drastically cutting this expense. And a revamped Wall Street pay structure could be further enhanced through new accountability. One idea is creating escrow accounts at each firm made up of, say, one-third of each year’s allocated compensation, which would be distributed to employees over the next three years — after the account is reduced by losses resulting from poor trades or deals and legal judgments against bankers and traders resulting from their rash behavior. The escrow accounts would reinforce the idea of prudently generating revenue

    Instead of fretting over government intrusiveness, titans like Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, Ken Lewis of Bank of America, Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs and John Mack of Morgan Stanley should be dancing a jig that Mr. Waxman and Mr. Cuomo have given them cover to make the one change on Wall Street that would help their bottom lines and prevent the tragic cycle of lurching from one financial crisis to another. But if they don’t, then the new secretary of the Treasury should help them see the light.

New on the Alliance@IBM Site
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  • Job Cuts Status & Comments page
    • Comment 11/16/08: i'm a contractor @ the rtp, nc site.. just got a call from my CTG manager saying IBM was cutting our pay %10 effective tomorrow monday 17th, 2008... Merry Christmas.. 3rd cut i've had in the last 3 years... -anonymous-
    • Comment 11/17/08: IBM is closing libraries at these location: Essex Junction, Austin, Rochester, Poughkeepsie, and Tucson as of December 1, 2008. -very concerned-
    • Comment 11/17/08: Steady State completely India and Argentina right now and expect them to advance plan in other areas - GS is about to go to 88% to India and China before JUNE of 09. More RA's coming Dec 1 - take any vacation before and Big Blue not planning on rehiring full timers even though some major contracts signed the past month - looking at NEW contractors only is what was heard in the halls, less rate. -UC'd-
    • Comment 11/17/08: CTG third pay cut in 3 years and yet you continue to stay? As a retiree I could understand you hanging on for a pension maybe but what are you hoping to accomplish by staying?? Considering on top of pay cuts the cost of living has been climbing so you are probably down to McDonalds wages why would anyone put up with IBM's S*** for declining wages? I am not trying to be negative or nasty but I would have to give serious thought to my situation. Even Bob Cratchet got a penny a year raise. Good Luck! -Exodus2007-
    • Comment 11/17/08: Anon in rtp, sorry to hear that - I got a 10% reduction last year in Canada - hoping to find another job before IBM dishes out another 10% pay cut ultimatum - contractor colleague of mine was let go last week - I have to do his work now - am now doing 4 times the workload as of 18 months ago. -DM-
    • Comment 11/17/08: CTG in RTP... We have all taken a "pay cut" over the past several years due to very little or no increase in pay and a pittance for bonuses. We lost some good CTG people doing important work, so I guess you should feel "lucky" that you weren't one of the affected CTG employees that were escorted out the door on short notice. All I can say is if you can find something better in this economy, then take it and leave IBM since there are no strings attached to keep you there unless you just do it for the sheer entertainment. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 11/19/08: IS IBM ACTUALLY HIRING?!?! Talked with several people including former people going to the job site and basically applying for thier old jobs after being laid of from contracting and then told they were "not approved" for a position they held for years??? Is this just a ruse for allowing H1B's? -IBM UC'd
    • Comment 11/19/08: HR keeping jobs posted like they are not filled for long periods of time. If you look at the open jobs and then you have to go back a section at the time 123456 ..... you will find the jobs listed, but hard to see them, because each time it takes you back to start. I believe they keep them posted to look like they can't find qualified people to support bringing in visas. Another thing has been noted, a regular IBM person works and takes classes to learn a new feature, mgt says sure you can work on the feature, but they are never allowed to work on the feature. A visa walks in and they get the new feature assignment, but have less experience than the regular. We all need to join up, because this direction is not changing. If you're reading here, then you're already worried, so join up. Together we can be heard, rather than knocking us off one at a time. We could make history! -Young Lady-
    • Comment 11/20/08: In a director meeting this week. The director indicates that all US GBS LCM and Dev resource in his team will be replaced by GDC (Global Delivery Center) resource (china, argentina, brazil, mexico, taiwan, singapore, russia, india) in 2009. This is to save money (estimated at 6.5) for our IGA S&D client and to free up resource for commercial accounts. hahahahahaha Does he think were stupid !!! We will train our replacements just like they just did in GTS with the SDM's SDM's then there will be no jobs. Good Luck to you , remember we have value and can use it to compete with the BLUOX -Anon-
  • General Visitor's Comment page
    • Comment 11/14/08: There is an ongoing IBM stockholder proposal that addresses the outrage over how IBM CEO and executive bonus pay is calculated based on pension fund earnings. It is not specifically a stockholder voice in executive pay but it it is close in that it spells how it is calculated. IBM has contended in the past that how they compensate their executives is considered normal business operations and so far the SEC has agreed that IBM can choose to not consider it for a proxy vote. But now with Sun and also the baby Bells (Bell System Companies) have been successful in proposing this it is due time a similarly worded proposal is submitted for a stockholder vote as well. I reckon we will see a proposal on this as well in 2009 -execpay2much-
    • Comment 11/14/08: God I hope this guy stuffs it right up Palmisano's ass in court . You can bet your ass he was repeatedly told he was worthless at IBM and was treated like shit like the rest of us. But didn't Apple purchase Power PC chips from IBM? So what's the problem?? Greed? You Betcha. Sam might have to settle for only 71 Million in stock options instead of 72 Million. How dare an EMPLOYEE make good. -Exodus2007-
    • Comment 11/16/08: Heard something that IBM want to get some of the USA "rescue" money. They took out a loan (credit) earlier this year for stock buy backs and probably want to secure another loan now but are having problems getting the credit. Wouldn't surprise me this coming from the thieves, crooks, and sheer greedy bastards that hide in Armonk. -anonymous-
    • Comment 11/16/08: IBM wouldn't need any employee to sign a non-compete agreement if they treated all their employees fairly with dignity ("RESPECT FOR THE INDIVIDUAL"), paid them fairly (better than the average market pay), maintained employee benefits and even try to improve them, and also give all employees more than just a hope for a lasting career in IBM. Then most, if not all, employees would choose to stay in IBM. The employees would also be more committed to making IBM a much better I/T company since the employee would not have to constantly watch and worry about their position in IBM. The only way to work towards a better IBM where employees would want to stay is to unionize. UNION YES! -sby_willie-
  • Pension Comments page
  • Raise and Salary Comments
    • Comment 11/19/08: Salary = 23000; Band Level = 6; Job Title = it specialist; Years Service = 4; Hours/Week = 50; Location = Czech Republic Message = 2,2,2+,1 in past years... started at band 3 with 10k USD salary and get steady 20% salary raise each year. -traktor-
  • PBC Comments
  • International Comments
Vault Message Board Posts
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Vault's IBM Business Consulting Services message board is a popular hangout for IBM BCS employees, including many employees acquired from PwC. Some sample posts follow:

  • "Excited and Scared" by "ribbonmatch". Full excerpt: I'm in Strategic Outsourcing in Japan and decided to take a payout package of over a year's salary that was offered by IBM. I've been on a transition project and will start a new job as a systems admin for a small outsourcing company. But I'm anxious and worried. Sometimes (like now), I feel like I can't succeed outside of IBM. It's strange that I've been dissatisfied at IBM for about a year yet I feel afraid to leave. I should be happy about leaving, yet I feel depressed.

    I've been trying to understand why I'm feeling this way. Maybe it's leaving a big company with its security (such as it is) for a small company? Maybe it's been that I've been weekdays away from home for this project since July. Or maybe it's the feeling that I'm running away from IBM and this transition project and not sticking it out like my colleagues in the project. Well, it's really all of the above and it's really giving me a hard time thinking about it. I wonder if there's anyone else out there who's been in my position and has come through all right after leaving IBM.

  • "You're not alone" by "Frank Cary". Full excerpt: Ribbon- As wise old ABC said on this subject last year, we are all "Battered Employees" when leaving the Blue Pig. Like most abusers, the Pig tries to make you feel bad at leaving your own abuse. Your feelings are all in a jumble now and you're not thinking/feeling as clearly as you will 6-12 months from now.

    You haven't failed or abandoned your buddies: you've made a life-enhancing decision in your own best interests. I found solace in Is 55:12 every time I felt as you've described above in your note. "You shall go out with joy and be led forth with peace..." Nothing better than that in this life. as we say in Texas, "Buena suerta."

  • "Thanks Frank..." by "ribbonmatch". Full excerpt: ...for your wise words. It's difficult to separate all these thoughts and feelings at this point in time...sad to leave colleagues and familiar surroundings. I get close to tears knowing that I'll be gone in a little while; it's like a kind of death (I know it's not like that, but it's the way I feel now). But I don't really see any other way than to take the package and leave.

    I came to IBM from a smaller company that got bought out by IBM a few years ago. Despite some bright spots, I have to say that I've had a sense of malaise and depression here. I can tell from talking to the employees in their 40s and 50s who talk about the good old days of IBM that something's amiss in today's IBM, or at least IBM and I aren't suited for each other.

    I've always admired the insight that you, civilliberty, ABC, and Dose of Reality (and unnamed others) bring to this message board. Thanks a lot guys for your advice and humor.

  • "Hang in there" by "messy desk". Full excerpt: You are definitely not alone! I ditto everything said in the other post, there are tons of people that feel the same way working for IBM. I have been very unhappy for years, but the thought of the unknown of going somewhere else frightens me. This year has been a challenge, of huge size. I have faced horrible personal challenges, but at work we have fallen under the worse leadership I have ever experienced which has led us to the worse working environment I could imagine. Our group was re-orged this year, and never did I think it could be this bad! Thought it was bad in years past, but those were a breeze compared to what it is like now.

    Through all the troubles I've experienced this year, I have finally found something that allows me to be able to deal with it (after I have experienced NUMEROUS serious health problems all year that have threatened my life). I have been reading the book "The Purpose Driven Life." This has greatly helped me to re-confirm what life should be about, what it is about, and who it is about. TRUST me when I say this really helps put things into perspective, even things beyond IBM (believe it there are things beyond IBM), and has lessened my stress and anxiety. I can now trust that what should be will be, and that I can be happy outside of my current job.

    Hopefully this helps, I think we all need help from this crumbling leadership. IBM definitely is not like it was in the good old days! Great luck to you, and everyone else!!!

  • "Thanks and You Hang in There Too" by "ribbonmatch". Full excerpt: Thanks a lot messy desk for your supportive message. I've read a little of "The Purpose Driven Life" and it's got some solid advice about putting things in perspective. IBM became the subject of my thoughts most of the time (even though I tried to resist it) and it was just tiring me out. I got the feeling that I didn't fit in with the company's plans and got depressed thinking about that. So I think I really had to make a move, however apprehensive I still am about it. I hope things work out for you, especially on the health front.
  • "ABC's Post about Leaving IBM" by "ribbonmatch". Full excerpt: I wanted to repost something that ABC wrote that has provided inspiration for me as I leave IBM (thanks for the cite, Frank Cary, in a previous thread). ///Aug 1, 2006 7:58 AM EST

    You have forded the river of opportunity and the reached new shores of equality, freedom of though and freedom of being valued like a human being, not a disposable tool. You have triumphed where many are too scared or too beaten down psychologically, paralyzed to take that one chance to succeed. You are now among an elite. The survivors of one of the most organizationally psychotic companies in the world.

    One word of warning, however. You have now probably arrived into an organizationally optimistic organization. Like battered male or female spouses who have left their diseased relationships and suddenly freed slaves, you need to stop and take stock of your new freedom and positive mental environment. Many ex-IBMers fail to change because they can't re-learn the new, more positive and individually rewarding situation that most in the world work in. Like Pavlovian dogs, they can't take the pain, insults and punishment out of their minds.

    Take time to decompress and heal mentally. Don't leap at the first opportunity. Don't act like a political mad dog like you were bred to be in IBM, and don't bite the gentle hands that feed you.

    You are out of the new 21st century forced slave labor nightmare called IBM. Don't take that nightmare as a chip on your shoulder for the rest of your working life. Take the time to heal yourself and move forward.

    Leaving IBM is like withdrawal from a nasty addictive drug that saps your individuality. Move forward slowly and you'll find your past nightmares to be a most invaluable lesson of how things should never be from a corporate, ethical and moral perspective.

    The brass ring is now in your hand. It's now your turn to offer it to help other colleagues out of the corporate nightmare called IBM and to move ahead to achieve whatever you define is success! ///

If you hire good people and treat them well, they will try to do a good job. They will stimulate one another by their vigor and example. They will set a fast pace for themselves. Then if they are well led and occasionally inspired, if they understand what the company is trying to do and know they will share in its sucess, they will contribute in a major way. The customer will get the superior service he is looking for. The result is profit to customers, employees, and to stcckholders. —Thomas J. Watson, Jr., from A Business and Its Beliefs: The Ideas That Helped Build IBM.

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