The Mountain View Voice recently reported that Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO, and founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, have purchased a small fighter jet. This fighter jet has been seen at Moffett Field, a former U.S. Navy landing strip that is now operated by NASA and is located only a few minutes away from Google’s headquarters in California. The jet is a Dornier Alpha Jet, a German-French manufacture that was primarily used by European air forces in the 1980s. In a flailing economy, acquisitions such as this highlight the importance of understanding the legality and transparency of corporate activity.

The New York Times recently filed a Freedom of Information Act request with NASA inquiring about the deal that authorized the Google executives’ use of the NASA runway. NASA released information about its agreement with a company owned by the Google executives that allows NASA to put scientific instruments on planes used by Google’s founders. In exchange for this compromise, as well as $1.3 million a year, the Google founders can park at this convenient spot and help NASA defray research costs. No other company in Silicon Valley has landing rights at this field. This begs the obvious question: do the Google executives have too much money, power and influence? The CEO of Google is apparently a skilled and enthusiastic pilot, though the exact ownership and use of the fighter jet has not been disclosed. In addition to this most recent purchase, Google’s billionaire founders own a Boeing 757 and two other jets. Last year, attention concerning the Boeing plane intensified when a legal dispute arose between the Google executives and a contractor hired to refurbish the plane. At the time, gossip leaked purporting that the founders wished to string hammocks from the ceiling and install king-size beds on board. Once again, the question is raised: do corporations have too much power and influence in the United States?

After the recent dive in the American economy, much attention by the general public and policy experts has turned to corporate greed. Many have pointed to and blamed the government for the absence of regulation in the high-powered corporate financial sector that has allowed executive compensation to skyrocket to the point that fighter jets become realistic purchases. Should executive incomes be legally regulated? Although the problem on Wall Street is not limited to executive compensation, it does involve the general lack of overall enforcement mechanisms for existing corporate regulations. There is an obvious need for transparency in the corporate field in order to understand the functioning of the U.S. economy. The media’s use of the Freedom of Information Act is one method of exposing corporate scandals, or, as was the case with Google’s fighter jet purchase, for further investigation into suspicious corporate executive activity. Money and power can buy a lot in a capitalist economy– even fighter jets– but this type of activity should be subject to public scrutiny. Furthermore, the government should not be kept in the dark as corporate executives line their pockets, and be forced to step in later and bail out companies on the verge of financial ruin. This situation will be among the most important issues that the next U.S. president will have to face. On a lighter note, the New York Times published an article last week concerning the acquisition of the fighter jet by Google’s billionaire executives. The article ended by stating that no jet fighter attacks on Microsoft are imminent at this time.

7 Responses to Google Top Executives Prosper in a Slowing U.S. Economy

  1. Rachel says:

    P.S. Hb, Google is a PUBLIC company. (NYSE & NASDAQ: GOOG)

  2. Rachel says:

    It seems that hb misses the point. It’s not necessarily criminal activity that is the problem. Google bought a jet (price undisclosed, but likely in the millions) and pays $1.3 million a year to park it (not to mention what they pay to use/maintain it). If I were a shareholder, I would be screaming my head off about corporate waste. I think a valid issue in today’s economy is whether or not the standard business judgment rule should be re-examined. Because I can’t figure out a valid business reason for spending millions of dollars on a useless jet. It’s obvious that it was purchased for private use and not to further the corporation. It’s one thing to buy a private jet to transport executives to important engagements. It’s yet another to finance the CEO’s hobby with corporate (read: shareholders’) money. Google’s actions may not have been criminal, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t just plain stupid.

  3. hb says:

    Nice dodge. What color is the sky in your world? No, you don’t accuse Google of anything…you just drag its name through the mud with all kinds of sleazy innuendo. I take with bad writing, and barely concealed agendas.

    What hilarity–you’ve classified a private company’s jet purchase and parking lot deal w/NASA as ‘corporate decadence’? HAHAHAHAHA

  4. JETL says:

    The post does not accuse Google of doing anything corrupt. Furthermore, there is no implied meaning in the post that Google has done anything illegal. Google was used as an example of corporate executive wealth and power. It sounds like you take issue with the liberal backlash against corporate interests that have been apparent during the Bush administration. However, you should not take it out on this post, which merely illustrates corporate decadence and takes no political position.

  5. hb says:

    I know what the post said. I also know that you lumped Google in with the bad ‘financial sector’ apples…and for what? Because it has the clout to strike a sweetheart deal with NASA? Your implication was clear. Your reasoning however was reckless and unprofessional. You linked a company with no record of any corporate ‘abuse’ to those with CRIMINAL records of abuse.

    Why is it so hard to admit you couldn’t resist joining in the anti-corporate frenzy sweeping the country.

    What a bush league load of writing. If I were Paige, Brin and company, I’d be more than eager to let loose my legal attack dogs and let them roam around your ‘neighborhood’. But they’re smarter than I am–they probably already realize you’re not worth it.

  6. JETL says:

    The post does not link Google Execs to any corrupt activity. It merely points out that American corporations have a lot of power and influence (example, they can obtain user rights to a NASA field that no other company or private citizen has been able to procure). The post highlights corporate power, influence and abuse and then talks about the financial downfall and whether it is time to increase regulation on some of our high powered corporate sectors, financial or not.

  7. hb says:

    maybe you folks could quench the desire for a police state for a moment, and kindly point out the criminal activity the Google people are KNOWN to be engaging in??

    How does the public benefit by knowing Google gets free parking aft Moffett? For that matter, why isn’t the NYT using FOIA to find out all the other perks various contractors (and civil servants as well) get??

    And forgive me, but I wasn’t aware that Google had been transformed from a search/multimedia company into a ‘high-powered corporate financial sector’ company, willfully screwing its stockholders. You guys got more than this, or do you just think you’re Arrington on roids?