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POKING HOLES IN THE GOLDEN PARACHUTE resigns with good reason. The double- news, they should Street movement took to the streets of trigger, or golden parachute, package occurs pair a single- lower Manhattan in 2011, in part to lambast within a certain period of time after the sale trigger severance corporate CEOs for purported greed. Their or acquisition of a company. The executive agreement with a argument: These chief executives are receives compensation for the same reasons highly variable CEO overpaid, blessed with “golden parachute” outlined above. pay structure. Protesters in the so-called Occupy Wall clauses and devoid of transparency. “Those ‘causes’ or ‘reasons’ are different In view of the very from company to company and often public criticisms of of accounting at Marquette, has been study- poorly defined,” Ling says. “The perception, CEO compensa- ing the interplay among CEO severance and often the reality, is the CEO benefits tion, severance packages, salary and transparency. And her greatly from these agreements.” and transparency, Dr. Qianhua “Q” Ling, assistant professor findings could help shape how corporate Ling’s research found that CEOs who these findings highlight boards approach these compensation and have single-trigger severance packages important strategies that corporate boards governance issues. are more prone to conservative financial can use to more ethically guide their reporting and they tend to disclose bad organizations, Ling says. In a paper slated to be published in 2012 by the Journal of Accounting, news sooner. From the boards’ perspective, “Quite simply,” she says, “I’m interested Auditing and Finance, Ling examines the Ling says, this is the silver lining of having a in how governance affects information and association between pre-negotiated (or ex severance agreement. “This association how information affects decisions.” ante) severance agreements and the timely remains positive in the CEO’s last year of Ling’s next project is no exception. disclosure of bad news to governing boards tenure where performance is poor,” she She’s now examining the link between and shareholders. She looked at “single- adds. “And the association is stronger among chief executive compensation and trigger” and “double-trigger” severance CEOs with a highly variable pay structure.” financial performance of nonprofit packages. According to Ling, the former Ling suggests that if boards want to entitles a CEO to compensation if employment capitalize on the impact severance agree- is terminated without cause or the CEO ments have on the early disclosure of bad human services organizations. — CS ENGINEERING SAFER ROADS There are more than 11,000 miles of state roads in Wisconsin, and Dr. Alex Drakopoulos has studied all of them. It’s all part of the research the associate professor of civil, Drakopoulos also conducted research on the national standards that govern traffic signal indications and road markings. Results from this research, with additional findings from other investigators, construction and environmental engineering has guided during his are now included in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, 19-plus years at Marquette, hoping his findings help federal and a publication that sets nationwide standards for traffic agencies. state transportation agencies implement safety changes for roads. His latest work includes a federal grant to analyze the effect of trucks on congestion. “A truck accelerates much slower than a passenger car. So as the Another one of his projects was the first U.S. installation of special pavement markings that were used in Japan to slow down drivers before dangerous turns. These markings, installed by special permission from the Federal Highway Administration speeds drop when you have congestion — perhaps it’s a work zone at a Milwaukee freeway location, are now widely used across or peak-hour traffic — you’re going to have the trucks create a lot the country. of gaps ahead of them,” he says. “This certainly is going to impact congestion.” And when there’s congestion, there’s driver frustration. When there’s driver frustration, there are accidents. Drakopoulos hopes his data will provide new information about how to make congested highways that carry a lot of trucks operate more safely and efficiently. Even though he says his research “focuses on things that people don’t ordinarily notice on a daily basis” — a blinking red light bulb in a traffic signal or lines etched on the pavement surface, for instance — he knows small findings can mean big change. “If you have the chance to improve policy because of your findings, it is a great help to people who need it,” Drakopoulos says. — BDJ Marquette University 23