WHO BUSINESS BOSSES HATE MOST Ask America's leading corporate chief executives which professions help society -- and then stand back, especially if you work anywhere near Wall Street.
By Terence P. Pare REPORTER ASSOCIATE Reed Abelson

(FORTUNE Magazine) – DO AMERICA'S TOP CEOs like investment bankers? Yes, the way W. C. Fields liked children -- parboiled. As takeovers and leveraged buyouts continue to proliferate while some from the past come to grief, U.S. business leaders conclude overwhelmingly that investment bankers are overpaid and more interested in thickening their wallets with fees than in advancing clients' interests. No, the vast majority of CEOs do not want government meddling with Wall Street pay. But while a sizable proportion dissent, most feel that the dealmaking engineered by financial types is hobbling America's ability to compete globally. The true contributors to the commonweal? Executives -- and the clergy. These are among the most notable findings in the latest FORTUNE 500 CEO Poll. Clark Martire & Bartolomeo, an independent opinion research firm, conducted the survey of 206 chief executive officers of FORTUNE 500 and FORTUNE Service 500 companies between October 25 and November 3. Given a list of professionals, CEOs chose executives like themselves as major contributors to society far more often than they named anybody connected with Wall Street. Manufacturing executives were singled out most often, beating all comers including the clergy. Sacrilege? No, partly a public relations problem. Many executives note that with Jim Bakker in the slammer and other evangelists touched by scandal, the man of the cloth's image is a bit stained. N. Berne Hart, chief of United Banks of Colorado, explains the relative rankings as a problem of accounting: ''With manufacturing executives it's so many tons of this or so many thousands of that. I don't know how a priest or a clergyman adds up what he does.'' Other workers whose output is hard to evaluate ranked low in the eyes of the CEOs. Only 7% of them said that journalists made major contributions to society. Management consultants were no more esteemed than investment bankers, with 6%. Even less well thought of were stock analysts and headhunters. A mere 2% of the chiefs felt that investment consultants made large contributions to society. Explains Raymond C. Burton Jr., boss of Trailer Train, a railcar cooperative: ''I don't think any of us really knows what is going to be the right thing to invest in. But investment consultants parade themselves as knowing.'' The CEOs reserve their most bitter bile for investment bankers. Fully 95% believe investment bankers emphasize fees rather than the long-term interests of clients. Loyalty is dead. Says Charles F. Casey of plastic-container maker Constar International: ''The switch over the years from a relationship- oriented industry to a transaction orientation has really put a credibility gap between the investment banker and his client.'' The investment banker who helps you with an initial public offering today could come knocking with a hostile tender offer tomorrow. Says Ryal R. Poppa of computer equipment manufacturer Storage Technology: ''You just can't trust them as you could in the past.'' Edmund M. Carpenter of electronics outfit General Signal sees another kind of change: ''In some cases investment bankers are making the market rather than responding to the needs of the market.'' The equity stakes investment bankers commonly take these days trouble Richard F. Teerlink of Harley- Davidson, the motorcycle maker. How can investment bankers give an objective opinion of a deal if they will be affected by their decision? Says Teerlink: ''There's a potential for a conflict of interest.'' The lightning rod for much of this excoriation is salary. Most executives would kick Wall Streeters right in the pocketbook. Teerlink is burned not by how much the investment bankers earn but by how little others are paid: ''The real people who are investing in companies are the employees who are putting in sweat equity, and they're not getting anywhere near the returns investment bankers are.'' SOCIETY, OF COURSE, does not necessarily suffer because a small number of its members are paid more than they are worth. But 68% of CEOs feel that the deals driven by investment bankers hurt America's ability to compete in the global market. ''Instead of building industries, investment bankers are making money by tearing them down,'' says James C. Cotting, boss of truckmaker Navistar International. The chiefs particularly decry the emphasis that frenetic mergers and acquisitions place on the short term -- called the Maypo syndrome, playing off U.S. Budget Director Richard Darman's references to old TV commercials for the breakfast cereal in which a misbegotten little monster demands that his mother serve his Maypo now. CEOs feel that unless they deliver attractive returns immediately, an investment banker could come calling with a takeover bid in a briefcase thinner than the smile on his face. Result, they say: The best-laid long-term plans, vital in a world increasingly dominated by the far-sighted Japanese, will inevitably go awry. W. R. Wilson, chief executive of steelmaker Lukens, says, ''It's hard to keep your eye on the ball long-term if you have to keep looking quarter to quarter.'' Bausch & Lomb chief Daniel E. Gill concurs: ''Any CEO knows that for a year or two, maybe even three or four years, you can show tremendous profitability quarter after quarter. All you do is curtail maintenance, curtail advertising of new products, and cut out technology investments.'' Like many CEOs, Tom E. Smith of Food Lion, North Carolina's supersuccessful grocery chain, worries about the wider economic impact of nonstop dealmaking: ''So much emphasis has been placed on Wall Street and leveraged buyouts that it has detracted from good, sound investments. That hurts the economy.'' Alexander F. Giacco of chemical maker Himont thinks some U.S. industry could end up out of business. He says, ''You push too many of these deals and you have to ask, 'What's going to happen to the manufacturing base of our country?' '' Paul R. Roedel, head of specialty-metals maker Carpenter Technology, warns, ''We will not feel the full impact of this phenomenon for many years, and then I am afraid it will be too late.'' Not that these corporate bosses oppose all mergers and acquisitions. They despise deals created for the deals' sake when investment bankers whip rival suitors into an acquisitive fury. But Giacco says, ''Each of us can think of an acquisition we've made or an acquisition we'd like to make.'' For that, investment bankers are necessary, like it or not. Capping the fees investment bankers earn could slow down the M&A action, yet 87% of CEOs oppose any kind of government interference in the market. Previous polls show that these chiefs reject most government intervention in business. John B. McCoy of Banc One offers a more specific reason for leaving dealmaking alone: ''If we curtail mergers and acquisitions, I don't think our companies will be as strong,'' he says, on the theory that the Darwinian struggle between predators and potential prey keeps companies fit. The price of that benefit is putting up with the fee-crazed hotshots of investment banking. A minority of the surveyed CEOs, 22%, follow a different line of reasoning, contending that the takeover wave is fundamentally good for the U.S. because it forces companies to cut fat, restructure, and become more efficient. Many economists endorse this view -- but then they don't have jobs at stake when the raider comes knocking. In the movie Wall Street, financier Gordon Gekko tells how greed is good. The CEOs do not agree, as their comments and their rankings demonstrate. Pointing to the second-most-esteemed profession on the list, Trailer Train's Burton says, ''The clergy can tell you all about greed.''

BOX: Q. Which of these professionals make a major contribution to the well-being of society and the economy?* A. Manufacturing executives 47% Clergy 44% Commercial bankers 32% Executives of service corporations 30% Accountants 18% Journalists 7% Investment bankers 6% * Management consultants 6% Executives of search firms 4% Stock analysts 4% Investment consultants 2% *Rated eight or higher on a ten-point scale of how much each contributes to the well-being of society and the economy.

Q. Do you feel investment bankers are overpaid? A. Yes 95% No 5%

Q. If so, would you recommend government regulation of these fees? A. Yes 7% No 87% Not sure 6%

Q. Do you believe investment bankers are putting more emphasis on deals and fees than on the long-term interests of their corporate clients? A. Yes 95% No 5%

Q. Do you think that Wall Street's merger and acquisition activity helps or hurts America's ability to compete in the global market? Why?* A. It has hurt 68% Too much emphasis on short term 36% Too much debt 16% Too much emphasis on finance rather than production 14% Less attention given to managing the company 9% Less money for R&D 9% Other 10% It has helped 22% Improved efficiency 11% Forced global competitiveness 11% Restructured assets more effectively 3% Restructured positions within companies 2% Other 2% *Percentages total more than 100% because of multiple responses.