first_imgCoal Industry Paid Lavish Executive Bonuses as Companies Collapsed FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Benjamin Storrow for the Casper (Wyo.) Star Tribune:In 2011, the coal industry went on a shopping spree. China’s economy was humming, and there seemed no limit to the amount of coal the country’s steel mills could consume. America’s coal companies, sensing an opportunity, rushed to acquire mines that produced the metallurgical coal essential to steel fabrication.Arch Coal paid $3.4 billion cash for the International Coal Group. Peabody Energy plunked down $5 billion for a majority stake in Australia’s MacArthur Coal. And Alpha Natural Resources shelled out $7.1 billion for Massey Energy, a metallurgical miner based in Appalachia.Executives at the three firms were handsomely rewarded in the following years. The three companies paid their respective management teams a combined $186 million in stock awards, incentives and other forms of compensation between 2012 and 2014, according to a Star-Tribune review of the firms’ financial filings.Their companies did not benefit to the same degree. Alpha, Arch and Peabody have failed to record an annual profit since 2011. Two of the firms, Alpha and Arch, are now in bankruptcy, and Peabody may soon join them.The story of their demise is now well-known. Chinese demand faltered, metallurgical coal prices collapsed and American mining firms watched as the domestic market for thermal coal contracted, decimated by cheap natural gas.But executives’ lavish pay packages, and the acquisitions that preceded them, are now drawing increased criticism as mining firms move to cut payroll, reduce retiree benefits and unload old debts.Peabody and Arch laid off a total of 460 miners at their North Antelope Rochelle and Black Thunder mines on the same day last month. The companies have not said how much the cuts will save. But based on the average annual coal miner’s wage of $82,000, the layoffs would save the pair around $37 million in annual wages, or 84 percent of the $44 million Peabody and Arch paid their executives teams in 2014.Alpha is seeking to cut retiree benefits for some 4,580 nonunion miners and their spouses. That move is expected to save $3 million annually, or about 14 percent of the $20.8 million Alpha paid its management in 2014.“The behavior of these executives seems to me pretty outrageous. They could see the handwriting on the wall,” said Gary Hufbauer, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, D.C. “The numbers are there. They started paying themselves out way back in 2012 or early 2013 when the numbers were turning.”The coal industry is hardly alone in offering its executives generous compensation. CEO pay at America’s largest firms grew by 997 percent, adjusting for inflation, between 1978 and 2014, according to data compiled by the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank.But the nature of the coal industry sets the compensation industry executives received apart, observers say. The mining sector is cyclical. Fortunes rise and fall with commodity prices. And coal executives should have recognized they were entering a metallurgical market at or near its height, critics argue.Peabody paid its top executive accordingly. Boyce’s total compensation was $9.5 million in 2012, $10.8 million in 2013 and almost $11 million in 2014, according to filings with the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission.Arch, like Peabody, has continued to hand out bonuses to its executives in recent months. Seven Arch executives, including Eaves, Drexler and Lang, received about $8 million in bonuses three days before the company filed for bankruptcy in January, according to the Wall Street Journal. Eaves received $2.78 million on Jan. 8, while Lang and Drexler collected $1.75 million and $1.17 million respectively.Alpha Natural Resource in January submitted a request in bankruptcy court to pay its executive team up to $14.8 million in bonuses. The additional compensation, which is contingent on Alpha’s financial performance, was needed to address a decrease in executive pay and to navigate a complexities of bankruptcy, the company said.Alpha later reduced the request to $11.9 million — an amount ultimately approved by a federal bankruptcy judge. Alpha has recorded the biggest losses of the three firms analyzed for this story. The company lost $4.4 billion between 2012 and 2014. Bankruptcy filings for 2015 put its losses for that year at $1.3 billion.And like its peers, Alpha rewarded its executives handsomely since its $7.1 billion purchase of Massey Energy. The company paid its management team about $62 million between 2012 and 2014. The value of the company, meanwhile, plummeted. When Alpha released its restructuring plan last month, it set a minimum bid for the sale of its most productive mines. The sum was $500 million.As coal company profits fell, mining firms rewarded executives handsomelylast_img