Like the English railing their queen for lacking emotion upon the death of Princess Diana, some reps are criticizing EVEREN CEO James Borris, who they believe hasn't shown enough grief over reducing broker pay while he reportedly raked in a multimillion dollar bonus for the last year.
Some EVEREN reps still are stewing over the slight pay cut that took effect Aug. 1--a cut they say is more difficult to swallow because of recent large bonuses given to top executives at the employee-owned, Chicago-based firm (see "OddLots, RR, June '97, Page 28).
This summer, EVEREN held one of its periodic conference calls over the "squawk box," which gave employees a chance to pose questions anonymously to Borris and other executives.
According to one report, Borris was questioned by a dissatisfied rep who asked if he was aware that reps were not happy about the pay cut and executive bonuses. Borris allegedly responded that he wasn't aware anyone was upset. For some, this indicated a certain aloofness.
"Why wouldn't we be upset?" says a California-based rep for EVEREN who heard of the interchange between Borris and another rep. "We get two points taken off our pay, and they got an extra $6 million in bonuses." This rep says the company has also raised the production level required for a sales assistant. "We just lost one of our secretaries," the rep laments.
For other EVEREN reps, however, this grumbling is standard. "You call any brokerage house and ask brokers if they like the fact that their compensation's been reduced [and] it never makes anybody happy," says Jim McLean, a veteran EVEREN rep in Oakbrook, Ill., who stands by the firm's management. "Our brokers are still some of the best paid brokers on the Street [and] it's a better-run firm if we put money in other places."
Another rep compliments Borris and other executives for effective management of the company, which has seen its stock price soar from just under 5 per share to more than 35 since the employee buyout two years ago.
"Jim Borris was a catalyst of why this happened," says Ray Harvey, a branch manager with EVEREN in Topeka, Kan. "All employees were offered the opportunity to buy shares. The people who participated in buying shares don't think Borris is overpaid. Those who didn't might."
An EVEREN spokesperson acknowledges the conference calls, saying that they are done periodically when "events inside or outside the company" warrant Borris' involvement. The firm would not comment on the reasons for the recent conference call or elaborate on its content.