The Common Good
January-February 2001

Doers Profile: Roger Rath

by Julie Polter | January-February 2001

NAME: Roger Rath

NAME: Roger Rath

AGE: 51

OCCUPATION/VOCATION: Investment advisor and senior vice president at a Baltimore-area brokerage and investment firm. Shareholder activist.

WHY THE RESPONSIBLE WEALTH CAMPAIGN? "It wasn't a flash of light. Having been born into the culture and a part of it for so long, it just never occurred to me that things weren't right. Through gradual exposure I had to ministries such as Sojourners and Church of the Saviour and people like Gordon Cosby, it became very apparent to me that my priorities were all backwards. I felt angry and gullible for buying into [this myth] that it's a level playing field and you just have to pull yourself up by the bootstraps. That is such a crock.

"In 1996 or 1997, I became aware of United for a Fair Economy and Responsible Wealth. Scott Klinger was extremely helpful in putting some of the economic things in perspective, especially where I could be useful and effective as a shareholder. The power of that is that we have been able to confront on several occasions some of these large corporations where the playing field is tilted at 60 degrees—it isn't even close to being fair."

SHAREHOLDER ACTIVISM: In 1999, Rath read aloud a detailed proposal at the Computer Associates stockholders meeting. He detailed CEO Charles Wang's decadent level of compensation and called on the board of directors to cap CEO compensation, based on a multiple of the salary of the lowest paid Computer Associate employee. The shareholders gave a standing ovation; the directors, however, voted by a large margin to ignore the proposal. But another stockholder sued Computer Associates for excessive CEO compensation and won; the court ordered Wang to return a large percentage of his salary and benefits to the company.

WHAT DO HIS CLIENTS THINK? "The reaction is mostly favorable. I try to avoid getting involved in political arguments. But where I know that I can bring an element of faith to the discussion, whether it be socio-economic or political, I do. It's really gotten to me the over past few years, how greedy things have gotten. But it's fascinating: When I get one-on-one with people and have a more intimate discussion with them, more often than not they're likely to agree with me."

HIS MONEY OR HIS LIFE? "It's become a false divide for me, between taking care of my own and giving back to society. My wife and I did a lot for our children [who are now grown] and gave them a huge head start on life. If I were to give away everything—either today while I'm alive or in my will—to charity and to [various] causes, they'd still be far ahead of most people in this world, who've never even had the opportunities that they've had and I've had.

"At this point, it goes beyond being a good steward. It goes into discipleship, and stewardship is just a piece of that discipleship. I really feel very strongly that the more I give away—whether it be time, talent, or money—the simpler my life seems to be getting, the better the quality of my life, and the better the quality of my faith."

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