The WSJ is getting this data because of strictures the Securities and Exchange Commission put in place a year and a half ago that allow more scrutiny of executive pay.

Companies often say one goal of their pay packages is to keep executives from leaving. But “if the executive is dead, you’re certainly not retaining them,” says Steven Hall, an executive-pay consultant in New York.

The Journal quotes a study of big companies that found 17 percent of them had severance-style death benefits and 40 percent paid for CEOs’ life insurance. And it’s not like these folks haven’t been getting magnificently wealthy while they’re still upright. Isenberg’s reaped half a billion bucks in the last fifteen years, for instance.

Solid enterprise reporting by the Journal.

Join the global economy! Starve to death!

The Journal and the NYT both go page one with farm stories today.

The Journal posts a very interesting look at a big oops! by free-traders who now say they may have been wrong for telling poor countries not to invest much in growing their own food since others could do it more cheaply.

Now, with grain stocks depleted, China and India gobbling food as never before and food prices soaring, many poor countries are turning their back on the old ideas and installing government programs designed to support local farmers. These include cash subsidies to poor consumers, increased efforts to improve local seed varieties, and government-sponsored handouts of fertilizer and seeds…

A growing number of World Bank economists are now convinced most poor nations need a healthy farm sector as the basis of a robust economy. The manufacturing booms that swept Asia only happened after the region’s farm sectors developed. And new research shows that investing in agriculture lifts more people out of poverty much faster than long thought.

This goes to the heart of the problem with free-tradeism. Countries should be as self-sufficient as possible. Relying on others to supply your needs is a recipe for disaster in times like these when it’s every man for himself.

Nations appear to be figuring that out—at least where food is concerned. The Journal says “food security has become a matter of national security.”

The Journal’s story reads like yet another malpractice case by the rich countries against the poor ones. Haiti used to be mostly self-sufficient in rice production, but it cut its tariffs on imports and its “rice bowl” was “nearly wiped out” and the country is now the biggest importer of the grain per capita.

Planting-season woes signal bad moon rising

The NYT says the planting season has gotten off to a poor start given that it must produce lots of food to stave off shortages. It says “some farmers are starting to fear disaster” largely due to too much rain in the corn belt.

Last year, the rice crop in Arkansas yielded a record 160 bushels an acre. This year, experts there say, 150 bushels will be an achievement.

“There’s no doubt about it, we’re not going to have the rice to export,” said Carl Frein of Farmers Marketing Service in Brinkley, Ark. “Poor countries like Haiti, I don’t know what they’re going to do.”

Fed knocks some Wall-Street heads

The Federal Reserve made a bid to clear up the mess that is the derivatives market by calling in major banks and hedge funds for a powwow on how to find a quick-fix, the WSJ and NYT say on their respective C1’s. The Times says it’s meant to assure that the failure of any financial institution doesn’t threaten to melt down the entire system, as nearly happened in March with Bear Stearns.

The parties discussed creating a clearinghouse for trades.

The Times:

Because no central clearinghouse currently exists for derivatives trading, a default by a major party could lead to cascading losses at big banks and brokerage firms. Fears about this so-called counterparty risk have rattled nerves on Wall Street amid a worsening credit crisis.

The Journal notes that it’s not the first go-round for this. The Fed called Wall Street in in 2005 for a similar meeting.

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at