10 Most Abused Business Leaders

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- Do you have a pressure-cooker job with never-ending demands and constant deadlines? Do you feel like you're under the microscope all day?

It's probably not as intense a situation as that of executives and policy makers at a few of the world's challenged companies and agencies.

Sure, they're well paid and probably make more in two weeks than you do all year. But in this day and age, with blogging, tweeting, e-mails and instant video, combined with a media that love to focus on failure, constant negative attention can make their lives a living hell.

For example, Mario Draghi took over as head of the European Central Bank on Monday, and he's expected to restructure the finances of the European Union beginning with the hapless Greece to prevent the EU's possible collapse.

Tim Cook, the new CEO at iconic consumer-electronics maker Apple ( AAPL), is in a completely different, but equally challenging, situation. He's replacing a creative genius at one of the greatest corporate success stories ever, with the most widely held -- and therefore most widely watched -- stock in the world.

Here are 10 top executives and policy makers who face some of the most abusive employment situations right now:

Italy's Mario Draghi, 64, took over as president of the European Central Bank on Nov. 1, the same day Greece skidded toward the brink of secession due to its sovereign debt problems. That could be the start of the unraveling of the 27 country European Union, which represents an estimated 20% of the world's GDP.

The whole world is watching the outcome of what has been sarcastically dubbed "the plan to make a plan to save the world," which is, in essence, an effort to bail out member countries with overwhelming sovereign debt. Good luck with that, Mr. Draghi.

How do you top a saint?

Tim Cook is in a different situation than the other executives on this list because, instead of facing an impossible situation, he's facing impossible expectations as he has succeeded Steve Jobs, the creator of the iPad, iPhone, iPod and iMac over at Apple ( AAPL), as CEO in August. Jobs died on Oct. 5.

Apple is one of the most successful companies of the past 20 years, and its stock is one of the most widely held. The 51-year-old Cook has made it clear he's going to go his own way, which is to say he'll probably be more like the traditional CEO and become more of a general manager and administrator than the do-everything, detail-minded Jobs.

The outpouring of sympathies for Jobs, all well-deserved, put a halo over his head. Cook won't be able to top that.

Peter Wilhelm, the chief financial officer of the Los Angeles Dodgers for the past five years, has been in the middle of a War of the Roses-like divorce of team owners Frank McCourt and his wife, Jamie. Their bitter split-up contributed to the team's recent bankruptcy. In doing so, they managed to kill a golden goose and just about cooked what should be one of the premiere franchises in professional sports.

It must have been a tough period for Wilhem, one of the best business minds in sports, as he has been an adviser on more than 30 acquisitions of teams in all four major leagues, including the Dodgers, Washington Nationals, Cleveland Cavaliers, Anaheim Ducks, Seattle Supersonics and Georgia Force.

McCourt agreed to sell the Dodgers Tuesday as part of the bankruptcy proceedings. McCourt's eight-year "stewardship" resulted in four playoff appearances, one divorce, one bankruptcy, and an allegation that he spent $189 million of team money on personal expenses. At least Wilhelm now has a clean slate.

Bank of America ( BAC) CEO Brian Moynihan, 52, is seen as the devil incarnate by Occupy Wall Street protestors for his bank's plan to charge debit-card users a $5 monthly fee -- this after the bank got two taxpayer-funded bailouts so it could survive.

That obviously ticked off long-time customers. Adding fuel to their bonfire, his salary was $2 million in 2010, his first year as CEO. Bank of America's workers are unhappy, too, as layoffs are reportedly imminent and they're probably passing that along to customers. That's why it ranked lowest in a 24-bank survey of small-business customer satisfaction from J.D. Power and Associates this month.

And investors can't be happy as BofA's shares are down almost 50% this year and have lost 26% annually over the past five years. Moynihan has kicked off an "outreach campaign" to turn things around, but proved his management is just flailing away at it when it rescinded its plan for the $5 ATM-card fee this week after reprimands from President Barack Obama and lawmakers, including Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin, who said customers should withdraw their deposits in protest. Ouch!

Oil giant British Petroleum ( BP) has a reputation as a carefree polluter. Robert Dudley became CEO of the company about four months after one of its drilling rigs off the coast of Louisiana exploded and sank, killing 11 people and sending an oil slick throughout the Gulf of Mexico in one of the worst man-made environmental disasters in history.

BP burnished its image for arrogance and insensitivity a few weeks later when then CEO Tony Hayward called the leak "relatively tiny," and later, in obvious frustration, said "I'd like my life back," essentially trivializing the lives of Gulf Coast residents dependent on the Gulf for their livelihood.

But BP's poor environmental record in the U.S. and other countries goes way back. In 1991, it was cited as the most polluting company in the U.S. based on EPA toxic-release data. As a result of its reputation, it's facing a tougher fight to get new drilling permits in the U.S. where it still faces massive civil claims, and internationally. And a recent tentative joint venture deal with a Russian oil exploration giant is troubled.

Who with a conscience would want to work there?

Research In Motion ( RIMM), the Canadian maker of the BlackBerry smartphone, is seeing competition from other smartphone makers such as iPhone maker Apple erode its market share just as sales for such devices is growing by 50% annually.

And once smartphone users switch to other makers, they tend to stick, so this could be a sinking ship. The BlackBerry was plagued by a series of service outages in the U.S. and internationally early in October. And on Thursday, its top executive in India resigned.

Co-CEO Jim Balsillie, 50, once a billionaire, is now reportedly down to his last $800 million, but that hasn't kept him from trying to buy a National Hockey League team, so shed no tears for him. But the company's shares are down 67% this year and that's got to put a dent in that fortune.

In this case, it's a victim to be named later as troubled Freddie Mac ( FRM), the mortgage-finance firm seized by the U.S. in 2008 due its financial problems, is in need of a new CEO. Who wants to step into this hornets' nest?

The company's main source of revenue comes from securitizing home mortgages. But given the state of the housing market, there's not a lot of new business coming its way. And Congress is holding hearings now to find out how to eliminate it along with its sister company, Fannie Mae ( FNM).

The company said last week that Ed Haldeman, the current CEO, is set to leave but will stay on until a new CEO is found. Making the challenge even tougher for the new guy, four of 11 board members have either left or are on their way out.

But on the upside for the new CEO, Freddie Mac's been a gold mine for previous CEOs, no matter how incompetent. Haldeman received a base salary of $900,000 last year, but also grabbed $2.3 million more in bonus pay. His predecessor, Richard Syron, who was also forced out, took home $19.8 million in pay and bonuses the year before Freddie went bust.

Hedge fund manager John Paulson, a 56-year-old billionaire, is having the fight of his investment life this year.

His Advantage Plus fund, for example, fell 47% in the first nine months of the year, and had disappointing results in October as well. He lost big on bets on financial stocks, which continue to underperform. That led to speculation that pension funds and other institutional investors may decide to redeem their stakes, forcing him to sell investments to meet those demands, but recent reports say that hasn't happened.

Paulson built his reputation by by betting against subprime mortgages in 2007 and 2008 and his funds profited by about $20 billion. His firm now manages roughly $30 billion, but he and his investment team control about half that.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, 57, has been on the hot seat, essentially since he took office on Feb. 1, 2006. Less flamboyant than predecessor Alan Greenspan, he was at the helm when the nation's economy crashed on the rocks in 2007 and continued to flounder since then.

He has been criticized for bailing out Wall Street and, most recently, for injecting an additional $600 billion into the banking system to give the slow recovery a boost.

Bernanke favors reducing the federal budget deficit, particularly by reforming the Social Security and Medicare entitlement programs, which has senior citizens in an uproar. His tenure has been saddled with a period of unprecedented stock-market volatility and an unemployment rate of more than 9%.

He argues that he has been doing his job by keeping inflation under control. On Wednesday, he said that the pace of economic growth is likely to be "frustratingly slow," after the Fed downgraded its forecast for the next two years. That didn't make him any new friends.

Dan Hesse is CEO of Sprint Nextel ( S), the the third-largest wireless-communications carrier in the U.S., but is the only one of that group, which includes AT&T ( T) and Verizon Wireless ( VZ), not affiliated with a major local phone company in what is a cutthroat, capital-intensive industry.

Its business slumped in 2008 and 2009, and the company is in need of significant capital to build out its Network Vision system, and so is in dire need of new capital. Its investors must be living on dreams, as Sprint's shares are down 36% this year and have an average annual loss of 31.5% over five years.
Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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