The "Dollar-a-year people" were business and government executives who helped the government mobilize and manage American industry during periods of war, especially World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. U.S. law forbids the government from accepting the services of unpaid volunteers. Those employed by the government had to be paid a nominal salary, and the salary establishes their legal relationship as employees of the government. For example, Massachusetts Governor Alvan T. Fuller, wealthy in his own right, served in several government positions on such terms. Kentucky’s Ashland Oil and Refining Company founder and CEO, Paul G. Blazer (1890–1966), served twice as a government salaried dollar-a-year man: from 1933 to 1935 under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s National Recovery Administration on the Code of Fair Competition for the Petroleum Industry as Chairman of the Blazer Committee and a second time during World War II as Chairman of District II Refining for President Roosevelt’s Petroleum Administration of War. During World War II, socialite Doris Duke worked in a canteen for U.S. sailors in Egypt at such a salary.
In Canada during World War II, C. D. Howe, Canada's "Minister of Everything", created a rearmament program using "dollar-a-year men". An example was John Wilson McConnell, the owner and publisher of the Montreal Star, who was appointed Director of Licences for the Wartime Trade Board, a position for which he served for free. Others include E. P. Taylor and Austin Cotterell Taylor.
Some recent one-dollar salary earners worked in government as well, such as former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Bloomberg's older daughter Emma who has also worked for the city.
Instances of alternative compensation
While many executives who take a one-dollar salary also choose not to take any other forms of compensation, a number earn millions more in bonuses and/or other forms of compensation. For example, in 2010–11 Oracle's founder and CEO Larry Ellison made only $1 in salary, but earned over $77 million in other forms of compensation.
In some cases, in lieu of a salary, the executives receive stock options. In the United States, this approach impacts personal tax liability, because although stock and option grants are taxed at federal income rates, they may be exempt from some portion of payroll taxes (typically 7.65%) used to fund Social Security and Medicare.
Executives argue that remuneration through stock instead of salary ties management performance to their financial benefits. The assumption is that stock prices will reflect the actual value of a company, which reflect the management performance of the company. Detractors argue that this incentive may drive short-term planning over long-term planning.
Notable one-dollar salary earners
The following people have been employed for annual salaries of one dollar:
- Sergey Brin (Alphabet Inc.)
- Larry Ellison (Oracle Corporation)
- Darren Entwistle (TELUS)
- Richard Fairbank (Capital One Financial)
- Lee Iacocca (Chrysler Corporation)
- Muhammad Ali Jinnah (Founder of Pakistan), as the first Governor General of Pakistan, fixed his salary to be 1 rupee without any other compensation
- Steve Jobs (Apple) did not take any alternative form of compensation (stock options, bonus, etc.) from 2003 until his death (in 2011)
- John F. Kennedy, Former President of the United States
- John Mackey (Whole Foods Market), who also does not take any alternative form of compensation (stock options, bonus, etc.)
- N. R. Narayana Murthy (Co-Founder of Infosys)
- Elon Musk (Tesla Motors)
- Larry Page (Alphabet Inc.)
- Mark Pincus (Zynga)
- Richard Riordan (Mayor of Los Angeles)
- Henry Samueli (Broadcom Corporation)
- Eric Schmidt (Google)
- Arnold Schwarzenegger (former Governor of California)
- Terry Semel (Yahoo!)
- Sehat Sutardja (Marvell Technology Group)
- Meg Whitman (Hewlett-Packard)
- Jerry Yang (Yahoo!)
- Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook)
- Jack Dorsey received no compensation for his time as interim CEO at Twitter
- David Filo $1 salary with no additional compensation as a founder of Yahoo!
- Jeremy Stoppelman $1 salary with no option awards at CEO of Yelp
- Edward Lampert $1 salary with no additional compensation as CEO of Sears Holdings
- Richard Hayne $1 salary with additional compensation as CEO of Urban Outfitters
- Jan Koum (founder of Whatsapp) $1 salary joined Facebook's board with stock options worth nearly $2 billion.
- F. Thomson Leighton
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