You don't see pure puff pieces on the front of the Los Angeles Times much. But today the paper ran a near-lionization of Dr. David Feinberg, who LA Weekly investigated after UCLA doubled his base salary (amidst budget cuts and tuition hikes) from $739,695 to $1.33 million.
Is it Page 1 news, that the CEO of UCLA Medical Center is admired and serious about patient care? No. But it is if you seek to repair the "greedy" label with which Feinberg is forever painted. How greedy? Well, Feinberg and 35 other rich UC executives told UC leaders they'd damn well better hand them big pension increases -- and that it was UC's "legal, moral and ethical obligation" to do so. Seriously. Read on:
The public wouldn't have known what CEO Feinberg and the other wealthy UC doctors and executives (see the full list of names below), were up to without the San Francisco Chronicle -- not the Los Angeles Times.
Apparently Feinberg & Co. had forgotten about the hundreds of newspaper stories statewide about public outrage over the out-sized pensions of many California government employees like themselves.
It must drive UCLA Chancellor Gene Block kind of nuts, that whenever you Google "David Feinberg" you get, in the top six citations or so, the LA Weekly article "UCLA's Millionaire Doctor David Feinberg."
And that whenever you search Google Images for the term "David Feinberg" you get TMZ's unflattering video image, "The Good Doctor" -- for a piece about Lindsay Lohan.
UCLA needed a puff piece, and it couldn't hurt that the UCLA Office of Communications boss is former L.A. Times vice president and senior editor Carol Stogsdill.
Nobody has ever questioned, to our knowledge, that Feinberg is a top-notch doctor and boss. But as Weekly freelancer Beth Barrett reported, regarding the pension shakedown:
The highly compensated group weren't demanding help for academic programs and students. They were threatening to sue the struggling California universities if the regents didn't boost didn't boost the executives' long-standing $245,000 salary caps used to calculate their pensions.
The change would create a sizable pension boost, costing the universities $5.1 million per year -- for just 36 government employees. In addition, the 36 executives insisted the new pension deal be retroactive to 2007, taking from the universities an additional bite of $51 million.
$5.1 million more, every year, for just 36 government employees like David Feinberg?
The L.A. Times today gushes:
UCLA's hospitals are packed and earning money. Feinberg likes to highlight the results of independent satisfaction surveys. A recent one showed that 84% of patients would "definitely" recommend the Reagan medical center to a friend or family member, up from 66% four years earlier.
For all of this, Feinberg has been richly rewarded. He earns $1.3 million a year, making him the highest-paid medical center executive in the University of California system.
Competitors have tried to lure him away, offering more money.
Um, no. That's a no-no in journalism, to put forth a misleading timeline that alters the truth.
The truth is, his salary was doubled after, and because of, a recruitment attempt by Stanford, not because the job Dr. David Feinberg is doing is significantly better than UCLA's many past top-notch CEOs. As Beth Barrett reported:
Last year, when Stanford Hospital & Clinics was considering poaching Dr. David Feinberg from UCLA, where he is the associate vice chancellor and CEO of its public hospital system, the university brass and the powerful UC Board of Regents decided to do whatever was required to keep their golden administrator.
In fact, the history of UCLA Medical Center is one of stellar, but far less greedy, chiefs.
As the Weekly reported, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block keeps bragging that under Feinberg, UCLA is rated fifth in the nation.
That isn't new, as Block knows quite well. That's been UCLA Medical Center's long, pre-Feinberg history, as the Weekly has reported:
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Is the job done by Feinberg, who has surprisingly little executive experience, so unusual that a government system needs to assure that he's a wealthy man? While Block brags that UCLA's medical system was rated fifth in the nation under Feinberg, the fact is that UCLA has been among the top five under various CEOs for most of the past 20 years. Under the previous CEO, it ranked third in 2007.
UCLA can puff up the real reasons for his incredible base salary getting doubled to $1.3 million all it wants to. Should the L.A. Times?
Here's the list compiled by the San Francisco Chronicle of the doctors and executives who tried to force the UC system to give them huge new pension boosts. Thanks to the widespread embarrassment caused by the Chronicle coverage, the pensions boosts were not granted. These executives are sprinkled in various university and medical center jobs statewide:
These are the 36 highly compensated UC executives threatening a lawsuit unless the cash-strapped University of California increases their retirement benefits:
Marie Berggren, chief investment office
William Coaker Jr., senior managing director of equity investments, Office of the Treasurer
Lynda Choi, managing director, absolute return, regents' Office of the Treasurer
Linda Fried, senior portfolio manager
Gloria Gil, managing director of real assets, Office of the Treasurer
Jesse Phillips, senior managing director, investment risk management, regents' Office of the Treasurer
Tim Recker, CFA managing director of private equity, regents' Office of the Treasurer
Dr. Jack Stobo, senior vice president, health services and affairs
Randolph Wedding, senior managing director, fixed income, Office of the Treasurer
Ken Jones, chief operating officer, medical center
Mark Laret, CEO, medical center
Larry Lotenero chief information officer, medical center
John Plotts, senior vice chancellor
Richard Lyons, dean, Haas School of Business
William McGowan, CFO, health system
Dr. Claire Pomeroy, CEO health system, vice chancellor/dean, School of Medicine
Ann Madden Rice, CEO Medical Center
Dr. David Feinberg, CEO of the hospital system; associate vice chancellor
Franklin Gilliam Jr. dean, school of Public Affairs
Dr. Gerald Levey, dean emeritus
Virginia McFerran, chief information officer of the health system, Anderson School of Management
Amir Dan Rubin, chief operating officer of the hospital system
Dr. J. Thomas Rosenthal, chief medical officer of the hospital system; associate vice chancellor
Paul Staton, chief financial officer of the hospital system
Tom Jackiewicz, CEO, associate vice chancellor of the health system
Gary Matthews, vice chancellor, resource management & planning
Dr. Thomas McAfee, dean for clinical affairs
Robert Sullivan, dean, Rady School of Management