-- Q: Are there any stocks that adhere to the principles of Occupy Wall Street?
A: The Occupy Wall Street protest is the latest face of discontent with the economy.
Given the relatively unorganized nature of the movement, it's somewhat difficult to understand precisely what the gripe of its members is. But based on interviews with members of the crowd, it seems the general complaint includes people, who might be unemployed or underemployed, who see the huge debts they owe and recognize how difficult it's going to be to dig out.
There's also a general feeling of discontent with the level of wealth controlled by the richest Americans and corporations. Stories about CEOs that haul in huge pay increases, while foregoing hiring and laying off staff roils members of Occupy Wall Street.
Because of the anti-corporate nature of the movement, an Occupy Wall Street stock portfolio is somewhat of an oxymoron. Many of the protesters seem to think the economic and capital systems are broken, and investing in companies in many ways would be contrary to the tenets of the movement.
With that said, there are ways to screen for companies that are not the biggest violators of some of the principles that appear to be important to members of Occupy Wall Street. Specifically, it's possible to find companies with the lowest-paid executives and also the companies that have added the most people in 2010.
Salaries paid to executives are a source of discontent with the Occupy Wall Street crowd. And certainly, CEOs are some of the most highly paid people in society. Median CEO pay among the largest companies analyzed by USA TODAY in 2010 rose 27% to $9 million. That came at a time of high unemployment and layoffs among the rank and file.
But some CEOs are paid well below the median, at least in 2010. The CEOs with the lowest total compensation in 2010, according to USA TODAY analysis, include:
• Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit: $1
• Whole Foods CEO John Mackey: $1
• Washington Post CEO Donald Graham: $412,740
• Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett: $524,946
Another aspect of the economy upsetting Occupy Wall Street followers is the low level of hiring at many companies.
There are some companies that are adding employees. But many of the companies that are adding the most to their employee ranks are doing so by buying other companies. The net result of such moves is typically a reduction in total jobs.
A few examples of companies that are actually adding to their staffs by hiring, include: Molex molx, Salesforce.com crm and First Solar fslr.
Below is a list of the members of the S&P 500 with the greatest percentage increase in total employees between 2009 and 2010. Just remember some of these increases might not be due to hiring of U.S. workers. They might include mergers with other companies or expansion in overseas plants.
Standard & Poor's 500 companies with largest employee increases from 2009 to 2010:
• Ventas vtr: 331%
• Frontier ftr: 174%
• Xerox xrx: 155%
• Stanley Black & Decker swk: 120%
• Priceline pcln: 69%
Given the nature of the Occupy Wall Street movement, a stock portfolio may not be the best way to support the cause. Yet, there are some companies, at least in terms of CEO pay and employment, that may not be the largest violators of the tenets held true by members of the movement.
Matt Krantz is a financial markets reporter at USA TODAY and author of Investing Online for Dummies and Fundamental Analysis for Dummies. He answers a different reader question every weekday in his Ask Matt column at money.usatoday.com. To submit a question, e-mail Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Matt on Twitter at: twitter.com/mattkrantz