NEW YORK, Sept 30 2002 (Reuters) - At a time when companies all over are axing employees, Winston Pingery makes sure resentful workers don't respond by turning the ax back on executives.
CEO protection is big business these days.
Pingrey, a bodyguard and security consultant, escorts laid-off workers from the grounds of high-tech companies in California's Silicon Valley. When those workers get angry and start threatening the company brass, he coordinates round-the-clock security plans to keep the executives safe.
Pingrey and other security experts say violent threats against executives have risen in the last few months, in the wake of scandals, bankruptcies and massive layoffs that have punctured employees' perception of corporate chiefs.
"People are directing their animosity toward the chief executive," said Paul Viollis, head of private client services at Citigate Global Intelligence and Security, a New York-based corporate security firm.
In the last few months alone, Viollis has coordinated security for two CEOs who received death threats from former employees. In one case, he said, the executive's children were also threatened.
"There's no question about it," he said. "Inside our business intelligence practice, the phones have been ringing quite a bit in the last few months."
Personal security is written into employment contracts for high-profile CEOs -- often including home security systems and drivers who double as bodyguards -- but the recent wave of bad news has intensified concern about revenge-related attacks.
Viollis attributes the rise to the lay-offs that followed the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington. "In concert with that," he said, "there's a strong connection to the Enron days."
If executives, especially at companies in financial or legal trouble, have not re-evaluated their security plans, they should, said David Bowman, a human resources expert and founder of TTG Consultants in Los Angeles.
ALL IT TAKES IS A 'VIOLENCE-PRONE' PERSON
"Here you have in many cases companies that, through their own shenanigans, have gone bankrupt," Bowman said. Disgraced chiefs walk away with millions, but sliced employees lose their benefits and see their retirement accounts plunge, he said.
"So what've you got? People with no 401k future, no severance and in a recession where jobs are difficult to get," he said. "All it takes is someone with a violence-prone profile to say, 'I'm gonna get him.'"