This is the company of Whiting Petroleum. It is a hydrocarbon exploration company that was founded in Denver, Colorado in 1980. And over the last 40 years, the company has made its money through oil production, oil exploration, and real estate as well.

From the year 2005 up until the year 2015, the company was extremely successful as it made billions of dollars in profits before going through some financial troubles in 2015, and finally getting back on its financial feet in 2018.

But then something changed. When the Saudi-Russian Oil war started earlier this year, and when the lockdowns significantly cut global oil demand…. oil prices fell across the world, which in turn has made many large oil companies creep towards the brink of bankruptcy.

And because of this, the Whiting Petroleum company recently announced a 3 billion dollar loss thus far in 2020.

This 5 month downturn, combined with billions of dollars in debt that they have compiled over the years, has forced the company to declare chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Now chapter 11 bankruptcy is quite complex, but to summarize it generally involves courts, and banks renegotiating the terms of the companies debts. It may also involve forcing the company to layoff a large portion of its workforce, and/or selling off any assets to help the company survive.

Now you would expect that when a company goes bankrupt and might be forced to layoff many of its employees that make between $50,000 and $100,000 a year… that the company would pinch every penny in order to help keep the company alive. That way they could try to avoid essentially being bailed out by the banks and the public taxpayers.

But in the case of Whiting, The exact opposite thing happened. Because Its top executives were given bonuses of just under $3 million dollars each, right before the company declared bankruptcy.

Now, I am not someone who cares how much money someone makes. If executives deserve to make hundreds of millions of dollars a year, then thats fine by me. But when your company is on the brink of insolvency and is about to be bailed out by the banks and the government… AND when potentially over 100 of your employees are at risk of being laid off… then you probably shouldn’t be giving out millions of dollars in bonuses to the top executives. That money should be going towards things that could help keep the company alive.

Now, the counter argument is that companies want to try their best to keep the executives that know how to run the company. Because the alternative option which is, hiring new executives, could hurt the company, and prevent it from getting out of its poor economic situation in the shortest amount of time.

And the reason why they give out these bonuses right before the company goes bankrupt is because once bankruptcy is declared, the courts have more say into how much compensation an executive can receive, or if they should receive anything.

Essentially these bonuses are a way to circumvent bankruptcy laws, and prevent the company from losing its executives who in many cases were a part of the leadership that lead to the companies bankruptcy.

But the trouble is…is that this is just one example of companies that are going bankrupt while trying to hand out millions of dollars to their top executives right before declaring bankruptcy.

Extraction Oil and Gas for example, is dishing out just under $7 million dollars to its executives this month. Chesapeeke energy dished out $25 million. California resources restructured its compensation for its ceo, so he would receive double his annual salary and bonuses if he were to be let go.By the way he made 10.5 million last year alone.

And these examples of millions of dollars in bonuses being given out to executives at failing oil companies, don’t just apply to oil companies.

Macy’s rolled out $9 million to a handful of executives, despite laying off 3,900 employees. Neiman marcus who recently filed bankruptcy, wants to dish out $10 million to its top execs. JCpenney dished out $10 million dollars in bonuses, with half of that going to the CEO. And in fact, out of 45 of the largest companies that recently declared bankruptcy, roughly two-thirds of them paid out millions in additional executive bonuses within 6 months of their bankruptcy filing date.

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