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The Severance Pay Debate

At a time when companies are shedding hundreds of thousands of jobs, it's not surprising that we got lots of heated responses to "The Hidden Perils of Layoffs" (What's Next, Mar. 2), about laid-off workers suing over alleged violations of severance laws. Some readers stressed that companies must always do the "right thing." Others argued that forcing businesses to compensate those they lay off lessens American competitiveness. —Emily Thornton

Severance pay is part of the cost of doing business. Companies that try to get out of it shouldn't have started up in the first place.

Screen name: David

Although good in principle, severance pay exemplifies the high cost of doing business in the U.S. With all the labor laws and employee benefits employers are required to pay, how can [a company] compete with nations that pay $2 per hour and no strings attached?

Screen name: Pedro Fernandez

If the employer is fighting to keep the doors open, what makes employees think it is capable of paying lavish severance packages? It's a tough situation for everyone involved. I consider myself lucky to still be employed.

Screen name: Stephen

Have the supporters of this law considered the perverse incentives it creates? If laying off becomes more expensive than employing, layoffs won't come and bankruptcy will ensue. All of the employees can then stand in line behind the other creditors for wages owed.

Screen name: Jim

Infrastructure: Building in Artistry and Sustainability

Regarding "Brains in the Concrete and Steel" (In Depth, Mar. 2): In our haste to create jobs by spending $500 billion on "shovel-ready" projects, we must remember to prioritize aesthetics and sustainability. Our forebears built artistically inspired infrastructure under the New Deal—projects we still cherish today.

Our generation's legacy needs to be artistry in engineering and stewardship of our environment.

Bruce Toman


FedEx at the Epicenter

Good customer relations is not limited to order fulfillment and product satisfaction ("When Service Means Survival," In Depth, Mar. 2).

After the 1989 Bay Area earthquake, I tried desperately to reach my sister, who lived near the epicenter. With no telephone communication available, I needed a way to find out if she was O.K.

I called FedEx (FDX) (then Federal Express) and asked if any of their trucks would be moving through the area. Within an hour, a dispatcher called to report that a driver had reached my sister's house and found her sitting on her bed, waiting out the aftershocks. She was fine.

In terms of customer relations, FedEx should remain near the top of your list.

Mary Murphy


'Top Banking Talent'? Let the Exodus Begin

"Bonus Crackdown" (The Business Week, Mar. 2) reports on concerns that restricting Wall Street bonuses "will send top banking talent stampeding for the exits." Not to worry! As the current crisis amply demonstrates, there is no top banking talent on Wall Street.

Russell Mayer


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