Last Wednesday, John Edwards had an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal titled My Plan to Stop Corporate Abuses (sub req) in which he decried CEO pay, called for universal health care for all, and announced his plan for a new universal (he likes that word a lot)retirement account for employees.
Today, there was a flurry of Letters to the Editor responding to Edwards. This was my favorite:
I agree with John Edwards ("My Plan to Stop Corporate Abuses," op-ed, Jan. 2) that there are problems with health care and with inequality of pay. I have a recommendation that may not solve all problems, but that will address some major ones: Place a cap on lawyer compensation.
The most irrational form of inequality of pay is a lawyer sucking up a 25%-33% contingency fee from a claim. It seems that in many cases, lawyers benefit more than the affected people. This is a terrible example of inequality of pay. After all, the compensation of most CEOs is much less than 25%-33% of the profits of the companies they run. I propose that John Edwards write another piece in the WSJ with his proposal on how to curb this "legal abuse." He should consider starting with a "fair reward for work." Based on this principle, I think that he should propose limiting the compensation of trial lawyers -- I would consider setting that limit to a maximum of $300 per hour, not to exceed $750,000 a year (this is calculated as $300 times 50 hours a week times 50 weeks a year). That's between 15 and 20 times what an average worker makes -- and it seems to be fair in the context of closing the inequality of pay.
An additional benefit of this proposal is that health care and court costs may decline as the more frivolous lawsuits are settled earlier and at a lower cost (and hopefully out of court) once lawyer compensation is not linked to the result of the lawsuit. I look forward to hearing Mr. Edwards's views -- and those of his major financial backers -- on this proposal.
I guess it all depends on whose wallet is being gored.