During Financial Crisis, C-Suites Seen as Devils or Angels

Last Updated Oct 10, 2008 1:30 PM EDT

devil.JPGShareholders are either more punishing or more forgiving because of the economic crisis. Take your pick.

The bad news comes from the placement consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas that reports that so far this year 1,132 CEOs have left their jobs. Some 354 CEOs resigned, 197 stepped down and 27 were fired, with the health and then the financial sectors taking the biggest hits.

The good news comes from proxy service firm RiskMetrics which reports that "at most companies. . . shareholders forgave directors for not having perfect foresight and were satisfied by the actions taken by the board."

Even so, RiskMetrics continues, executive compensation has grown as a pressing issue. Forty percent of shareholders withheld support from three Washington Mutual bank directors who said they would shield the pay executives from subprime losses. At Citigroup, three directors on the compensation committee got a 25 percent vote of opposition from shareholders.

Among prominent CEOs who have left or been axed are Angelo R. Mozilo, head of Countrywide Financial which has been taken over by Bank of America; Ken Thompson, head of troubled Wachovia and Philip J. Schoonover who resigned from hapless electronics retailer Circuit City.

Regardless of whether you see C-Suites as bands of angels or devils, the churn is likely to continue given tanking stock markets worldwide.