Erm, the article misses a few rather really major points. In fact, make that enormous ones. I started numbering my points, and had to stop...
Let's start with dividends. In the US the tax regime is rather unfriendly to divvies. So US companies tend to avoid paying them. This is government's fault, not corporate greed. Hence share buy-backs being what the shareholders ask for.
Next, it's the shareholders bloody money! So yes, companies should give it back to their owners when they ask for it. I admit people can invest for short-term reasons, and it doesn't look nice. But if you buy the shares, you own the company. If management can't convince their own shareholders that they aren't going to piss their owners' money up a tree, you can't blame the shareholders for asking nicely to get it back. Didn't Apple hit $130 billlion in cash at one point? They've never made a large aquisition, had no plans for massive growth, and were using maybe $10-20 at most in some very clever supply chain management. So the only sensible thing to do is give that back to the shareholders, who own it.
Microsoft were the same. Loadsa cash, no idea what to do. Give it back. Although they did spend $7bn on aQuantive, $8.5bn on Skype and $4bn on Nokia. Oh, and I forgot Yammer for another couple. I do wonder if the shareholders wouldn't be better off if MS had given them that over $20bn instead...
Now we come to not being able to sell shares for 5 years. Firstly, what happened to property rights? Should I not have the right to do with my property as I wish? Also what happens if I'm suddenly ill/unemployed and need the cash?
Next, do you hate pension companies? They have very strict rules about how much capital they have to hold, in order not to be insolvent. If a share suddenly goes down, they may need to sell lots of it in order to not suddenly go bankrupt, taking all their pensions with them. Pension companies are often longer term investors - and reasonably cautious. So surely represent the 'good bits' of stock markets. Long term saving, and hopefully long-term thinking.
I do agree with you that executive share options are often too generous, better than other staff are allowed to get, and risk incentivising them to pump the share price then dump. On the other hand, it's really hard to incentive programs.
It's all very well to say "something should be done". Lots of people agree with that. But what? I nkow it doesn't look good when people are making out like bandits. Particularly when they're other people. But always remember the rule of unintended consequences. Standard Life went under because they were forced to sell too many shares in order to meet government regulations in the dot.com bust. Those shares bounced back within a few years, so if there'd been a way to grant them a temporary exemption including regulator supervision and board level decapitation, they'd still exist today. And their pensioners would be getting their full money. This stuff's hard to write rules for.
In my personal opinion it's going to take a change in culture to fix a lot of these issues. Which is very slow. Governments are trying regulation, but it's unlikely to be all that successful. To misquote Churchill - free market capitalism is the worst system in the world, except for all the others.