Elizabeth Warren Made Almost 50% MORE in Corporate Cash than Everyone Thinks She did

Sen. Elizabeth Warren used her Sunday evening to release what her campaign says are compensation figures from her work as a corporate attorney since the late 1980s (though most of the money comes in 1995 or later) to late last decade. The media reports are that from those cases, Warren made a cool $2 million extra, above and over being a well-compensated professor.

The media is getting the figure wrong, under-reporting her real income from corporate cases by almost $1 million.

The $2 million figure in most news reports comes from simple arithmetic: they took the numbers the Warren campaign released, and added them all up, except in cases where the campaign said they just didn’t have the compensation figures (in about a quarter of the cases).

What’s wrong with just adding up the numbers? The problem with that is that those numbers are not inflation-adjusted. The value of a dollar in 1986 was quite a bit more than $1 today (precisely 2.35 times as much as today). Since the nominal dollar figures Warren released span different time-periods, nominal figures seriously understate her real compensation.

So I decided to adjust the numbers. It wasn’t that difficult. I used the year a case was filed as the base year (unless the campaign provided the specific year/years Warren was paid), and used an inflation calculator to determine the value of those dollars in 2019. Of course this could only be done for the figures Warren released, not the ones her campaign said they just can’t find.

Here’s what I found: for the cases Warren’s campaign did release compensation data, Warren made almost $3 million in inflation-adjusted 2019 dollars, 50% higher than the $2 million being bandied about. Here are all the calculations:

Case Paid/Case began year Nominal Dollars Compensation, Inflation-Adjusted
Central and Southwest Corp. v. El Paso Electric Co. 1995 $42,433.94 $71,654.89
Fairchild Aircraft Corp. 1995 $9,812.00 $16,568.76
Chateaugay Corp 1995 $18,708.50 $31,591.59
P.A. Bergner & Co. 1995 $186,859.59 $315,535.22
Cajun Electric Power Cooperative 1998 $41,677.69 $65,801.15
Falise v. American Tobacco Co 2000 $14,700.00 $21,968.56
Federal Communications Commission 2000 $7,074.00 $10,571.81
National Gypsum Co 2000 $39,997.00 $59,773.91
Travelers Indemnity Co. v. Bailey 2009 $212,335.00 $254,704.61
Bank of America Nat’l Trust Ass’n v. 203 North LaSalle Street Partnership 1999 $25,000.00 $38,617.35
FCC v. NextWave Personal Communications 2003 $119,082.88 $66,551.65
Dow Corning Corp. 1995 $19,942.00 $33,674.50
Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific R. Co. 1996 $21,269.85 $34,886.62
Merisel, Inc. v. Turnberry Capital Management L.P. 1997 $40,030.08 $64,184.31
Scattered Corp. v. Midwest Clearing Corp 1998 $97,329.21 $153,664.31
Perry Judd’s Inc. v. MLP USA, Inc. 1999 $16,800.00 $25,950.86
Group of asbestos cases 2000 $39,150.00 $58,508.11
Enron Corp. 2001 $76,712.50 $111,534.77
Travelers Cas. and Sur. Co. of America v. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. 2007 $18,500.00 $22,961.59
C.L. Hunt et al. v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue 1989 $29,101.79 $60,397.01
Cable Advertising Networks, Inc. v. Weisbart 1995 $154,679.80 $261,195.72
United States v. Brennan 1996 $40,968.46 $67,196.11
Bolin v. Sears, Roebuck & Co. 1997 $97,606.90 $156,503.09
Holocomb, Cox 1998 $11,922.00 $18,822.57
Cox v. Zale Delaware 1998 $11,922.00 $18,822.57
The Loewen Group, Inc. v. United States 1998 $90,000.00 $139,022.45
Price et al. v. Philip Morris Inc. 2000 $44,101.45 $65,907.85
Fuller-Austin Insulation Co. v. Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co. 2007 $160,277.88 $198,931.58
Marketing Specialists Corp. v. Mary Kay, Inc. 2003 $25,000.00 $34,965.49
Rohn Industries, Inc. v. Platinum Equity LLC 2005 $62,174.90 $81,927.61
Payment Card Interchange Fee and Merchant Discount Antitrust Litigation 2005 $90,000.00 $118,592.63
MC Asset Recovery, LLC v. Southern Co 2006 $40,137.00 $51,235.60
Mirant Corp. 2003 $65,475.00 $91,574.62
TOTAL   $1,970,781.42 $2,823,799.47

This comes on top of her salary as a professor at Harvard University - itself a private corporation - where she made a cool quarter-million-dollar salary.

As I mentioned before, this is only the data for about three-quarters of the corporate cases Warren said she worked on. For the quarter of the cases her campaign says she worked on but does not have compensation data on, I humbly suggest that those records might just be found in her tax returns from the years she was a corporate attorney. She should release those returns so that the public can find out for themselves how much she made in those cases, as well as verify the voracity of the numbers she did release.

I’m a Neoliberal Capitalist Corporate Shill (TM) of course, and I happen to believe that professionals deserve to be compensated for their work. From all indications, Warren was an excellent lawyer and professor who reasonably commanded top dollar for her services. The only problem I have is that for elected office, she has saught to create the impression that if corporations or corporate executives pay you or have ever paid you, you are compromised and unworthy of public office.

It’s only fair that she be held to that same standard as she asks for our vote for the highest office in the land, even if it’s a little inconvenient.

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