Heinz using old baseball-writer tricks

By Jason Wojciechowski on August 11, 2003 at 4:55 PM

Patrick McGeehan has this article in the New York Times about Heinz manipulating their statistics (and justifying it) to make their CEO's compensation look more reasonable.

The basic idea is that Heinz used fairly arbitrary cutoff dates for showing how their stock prices have done under William Johnson. They tried to explain why they used those dates in some logical fashion, but what it adds up to is that they took out the bad data to present a nicer face to the public of what Johnson has done for them. How is this related to baseball, as alluded to in my title?
It's a classic trick in sports arguments. "Well, if we take out April, because he was still getting warmed up, and July, because he had some bad spaghetti in Kansas City in the middle of that month, Bob Bobson is in the top ten for his position!" Sure, if we take out Bobson's bad stats and compare the remaining good ones to everyone else's cumulative numbers, Bobson's going to look good.
If you take out everyone else's bad stats, too, though, he goes right back to where he was in the beginning, usually.

The article is closed out with a quote that I can't really top, so I'll just cut and paste:

"It's a public-relations exercise pure and simple," said Paul Hodgson, who analyzes executive pay for the Corporate Library, a research firm in Portland, Me. He said a month-by-month chart of the stock's moves after the deal would have been fairer. "Giving stockholders the full amount of data and allowing them to draw their own conclusions about the effects of strategic decisions rather than painting rosy pictures is always the best way," Mr. Hodgson said. "There are three rules of good stockholder relations: disclosure, disclosure and disclosure."