Democrats & Liberals Archives

Obligations

I work in downtown Houston, and take a bus into the city. I tend to walk the rest of the way. As I walk my route through the streets, I often pass the Bob Cassey Federal Courthouse as a matter of course. Until about a month or two ago, there was nothing much to see there. Recently, the media has begun congregating there. This morning, I came to that area to see an unusual amount of cameras, both still and video set up. It took a few minutes for me to work out the target. Three or four suits on the other side of Smith Street. One of them was Jeffrey Skilling.

As I walked across Tranquility Park, with it's cylindrical fountains commemorating one of Houston's (and this country's) grandest achievements, there was a guy whose name I never got who bitterly spoke of speaking his peace about the man. Wasn't any crank or wild-eyed prophet. It was just an ordinary Houstonian office worker, from the appearance, a relatively young man.

2001 was an unkind year for Houston, even before 9/11. Tropical Storm Allison dumped it's tropical storm rains on the city for hours on end, flooding the area to an unthinkable extent. The damage was massive and Citywide, even area's like mine, which often escape flooding of that magnitude when heavy rains hit. The storm, though, was kinder in its destruction. It was nothing personal, a force of nature. Nobody blamed that storm then, or blames Katrina or Rita now for the destruction they wrought. They were simply acts of God.

Enron was an act of men. The leaders may not have set out to do what they did, but they quite purposefully went about the business of decieving investors about the company's performance, and when things started to fall apart took their opportunity to loot what money they could out of the company, while ensuring that others could not bail out and devalue their stock.

The common denominator with Enron and other corporate implosions that followed was the failure to meet basic obligations in terms of the market, the investors, and the people of America in general. This failure was aided and abetted by the conservative approach to the economy, and by a corporate culture that increasingly values easy-to-acquire symbolic gains over actual ones.

It's not that Americans really expect less of their companies. I'm sure if you asked your average American whether they want people deceiving them about the value of a stock, about the financial standing of a company, they would give the reply that's in their best interests: No. The same question could be phrased to ask them whether they would want their water, air, and land polluted, whether they would like to see prices raised arbitrarily on energy or real estate, whether they want executive salaries and compensation to shoot through the roof while theirs remain stagnant. The same answer could likely be drawn. People, amazingly enough, actually want these corporate institutions to respect their interests with their decision.

So how do things like this happen? Because the free market has been turned into an idol of the mind, and we have willingly forgone our specific interests in the hopes that the market would fulfill them in their stead. We've allowed it to happen because it apparently let corporations act more freely to do profitable things, and the rising tide supposedly lifted all boats. But tell that to the people of Enron, who saw their lives ruined and their once valuable stock made worthless, as all those nice little deregulations added up to a culture that made the executives rich at the expense of people whose only mistake was to trust the impressive numbers of an apparent market leader.

We can call the people who invested in Enron stupid or naive, but we miss an important factor in our thinking: our massive supply of hindsight. We know about the circuitous network of front companies and off-balance accounting. We know all about the house of cards that company was. We know about their manipulation of the California Energy Market, even going as far as to intentionally create shortages.

Before the collapse, Enron was the hot company, with the hot stock. Where Minute Maid Park now stands, we had Enron Field. In the Greenspoint area, in North Houston, Enron had set up its Broadband business, a scheme that would later turn out to be another money loser. Two shiny, round glass-facade towers stood on the west side of the Skyscraper District. In times past, when I was going to Houston for different reasons, my bus stop had a nice few of those buildings. I would walk past the building where Dynegy had its operations as well, the tanagram logo on a sign beside it. To the west, one could spot the former Transco Tower, now the Williams tower. I'm not sure whether it remains in their hands. In short, this was the boom times, and people saw great performance, and as the market would typically do, they rewarded it with further investment and trust.

This is how the markets supposed to work, when the numbers are true, and the the numbers are high!

That all goes down the toilet, though, if you do not hold corporate leaders to certain promises. Without honest accounting and distribution of accounting information to investors, collapses like Enron created are inevitable, and people don't have much incentive to invest their money. It use to be that people in our society had obligations beyond numbers, beyond their own enrichment.

One of the worst acts of Conservatives over the past few decades has been to betray the old obligations set upon the corporations, to allow them to increasingly weigh their own interests ahead of the publics, the enrichment of the executives over the decent pay and employment of the workers. It's ironic to call them conservatives in this light, because what they have done has destroyed the old law and order, and allowed an anything goes, amoral attitude to develop in business. Even the religious right have failed to confront this insidious change in culture, believing as they do that the invisible hand of the market is God's. Unfortunately, they have failed to consider the invisible hand of another spiritual being, one who has been offering riches and power to folks for ages, for a small price. What we have now in the corporate world is a place where one is encouraged to lie, to make oneself false, to do harm to others to get ahead.

We've forgotten the principles of economics, that corporations have to do things worthwhile and with minimal harm to others to earn their money. The dollar has become the idol we worship in this culture, alongside the household gods of ambition and social status.

It's not wrong to be ambitious, to seek a greater reputation in others eyes, or to seek wealth and prosperity. What's wrong is for these things to take over our lives and become all we honor or trust. What's wrong is for us to become half-human or inhuman in our pursuit of these things, surpressing all else that makes us human beings to seek these things out.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at March 22, 2006 9:21 AM
Comments
Comment #135254

Stephen,
Well said.
Democrats and Republicans are irrelevant.
The health of the planet is irrelevant.
Credibility and foreign relations are irrelevant.
Accountability is nonexistent.
Industry has infiltrated government and created an environment that is run for and by business as it pleases, without regulation.
How is it conservative to allow industries, who’s sole purpose is to maximize profits, to police themselves re: Environmental issues, security, pensions,quality control, employee health and safety etc.when those things take away from profits?
Why do Democrats ignore it? Both parties are for large corporations that can get them reelected. Neither work for the people.
White collar crime goes unpunished(Fine and community service)while some dopehead robs a convenient store of $200 and gets 20 years.

Posted by: Andre M. Hernandez at March 22, 2006 11:10 AM
Comment #135256

Stephen,

This is a good article. It begs for me to post a couple entries from Ray’s Brief Dictionary of Political Buzz Words and Phrases. So here they are:

Economy (Ē-cŏn-nō-mē΄) noun. 1.) A system of organizing labor, capital, and resources to produce the goods and services that people need. 2.) A system for making the rich richer. 3.) The Holy Temple of the Almighty Dollar. 4.) Something that is far less important than making sure that two adult men do not have the right to enter in to a civil contract of marriage. As in: People will vote against there own best interest on the economy in order to prevent gays from getting married – because?… if two consenting adult men got married – that would just be the end of the world – for sure – because?… all the closeted fags in the Christian right coalition would become liberated?… and run off and marry each other?…

Economist (Ē-cŏn-nō-mǐst΄) noun. 1.) The High and Holy Priest of the Holy Temple of the Almighty Dollar. 2.) Someone who advocates for “free trade” agreements like NAFTA that allow a third world country to subsidize industry by not demanding reasonable environmental standards or that workers be empowered to be anything more than slaves. Also someone who advocates for “free trade” agreements that allow third world countries to subsidize industry by not requiring any health and safety standards for workers. 3.) Someone trained to understand the complex inter-relationships between labor, capital, resources, and, goods and services. 4.) Someone who knows how to make the rich get richer on the blood, sweat, and tears of the working class. 5.) A General in the class war against God fearing hordes of subhuman workers.

To read more go to: Ray’s Political Blog

Posted by: Ray G. at March 22, 2006 11:22 AM
Comment #135259

Stephen,

Here is a couple more entries form Ray’s Brief Dictionary :

Capital (Căp-ǐ΄-tŭl) noun. 1.) How laws are made. 2.) How no-bid contracts are earned. 3.) Money. 4.) Free Speech (the rich and powerful get more it (free speech), so that they can get more of it (Capital).

Capitol (Căp-ǐ΄-tŭl) noun. 1.) The place where capital buys the laws and no-bid contracts.

Posted by: Ray G at March 22, 2006 11:26 AM
Comment #135261

Corpocrisy and Corporatism are a result of corrupt government.

Look at all the corporate welfare in 10,000 page pork-laden BILLs.

Ever read ““Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” by John Perkins ?

Bought-and-paid-for politicians in government are not doing their job.
Government is in-league with big-money corporate donors.
Government is FOR SALE.

And voters tolerate all of it.

But, our continual demise into corruption, or the voters finally doing their simple responsibility to reduce corruption, appear to be our only two options.

Unfortunately, pain is a lagging indicator of negligence.

So, voters are not likely to anything about it, until there is much more pain, and the pain of less corruption is preferrable to more pain.

Posted by: d.a.n at March 22, 2006 11:43 AM
Comment #135263

Andre,

Good points. That is why we need public funding of elections. If we want our elected officials to represent us, we must not force them to go hat in hand to big money special interest in order to get reelected. As long as that is the case, our government will be sold out. It has to be. It is not their fault, it is ours.

Sorry, but I can’t resist posting a couple more entries from Ray’s Brief Dictionary:

Affirmative Action (Ăf-fǐrm-ă΄-tǐv Ăkt΄-shŭn) Noun. 1.) Preemptive war. As in: George Bush took the affirmative action of spending over 300 billion (one trillion) dollars and conquering a weak Arab Nation which was ruled by a despotic secular dictator who obviously would never have trusted or cooperated with fanatical fundamentalist religious extremist – but it is A OK – most of the money went to Halliburton through no bid contracts see no bid contracts. 2.) The behavior of yes men in the administration of George the Second. As in: Top Whitehouse officials take the affirmative action of telling George Bush exactly what he wants to hear. 3.) The willful production of a false budget crisis. As in: George Bush took the affirmative action of cutting taxes for the rich with the intention of creating budget shortages so that he could have an excuse to cut vital services to the poor, elderly, and needy. 4.) The active creation of prewar intelligence. As in: The administration of George Bush took the affirmative action of cherry picking intelligence from highly dubious sources in order to make the case for war. 5.) The act of saving social security. As in George Bush took the affirmative action of pretending to try to save social security, while in point of fact, trying to privatize and destroy it, there by creating yet one more huge boondoggle for the rich… the rich who would have profited from the initial influx of capital into the stock market there by driving stock prices through the roof… the rich who would have profited again by buying up all of the cheap stocks after the stock market went back down when all of the baby boomers had to sell their stock at they same time… and the rich who also would have profited from all of the transaction fees in both directions… and the rich who would have profited by not having to help pay the baby boomers their social security that the baby boomers have worked their whole life to earn… and the rich who have already profited from the huge tax breaks that they were given - which just coincidentally - happened to be exactly equal to the excess social security payroll taxes that the baby boomers were paying into the general fund before they retire… so… George Bush wanted to take the affirmative action of acting like he was saving social security. 6.) An archaic term referring to well intentioned, but naïve liberal attempts to arbitrarily achieve the American ideal of equality. 7.) Illegally money laundering corporate money through the Republican National Committee in order to subvert Texan State law. As in Tom Delay took the affirmative action of laundering corporate money through the R.N.C. in order to subvert democracy in Texas so that he could gerrymander Texas and subvert democracy in the U.S.A. Unfortunately he got the idea to gerrymander Texas from the Democrats who did it first. (see: Fool me once and ah… ah… as they say in Texas… ah… ah… two wrongs will make a lot of Republicans rich.)

Posted by: Ray G. at March 22, 2006 12:00 PM
Comment #135274

d.a.n.

You are wrong. Corpocrisy and corporatism are not the result of corrupt government. It is the other way around. Corrupt government is the result of Corpocrisy and corporatism. It will be that way until we have public funding for elections. You cannot tell politicians that they have to sell themselves out to big money special interest in order to get elected, and then expect them to represent you. Not going to happen.

Posted by: Ray G. at March 22, 2006 1:31 PM
Comment #135280

Well Stephen, I didn’t know you were a fellow Houstonian.

I would agree mostly with what you have said here, although it could equally apply to Democrats had they any sway here…( say…City Leaders).

While the Republicans certainly have taken the government for sale, quid pro quo, money talks concepts to heart and to new highs(or is that lows?), they hardly invented the concepts.


I’m not a believer in public funding of elections, at least not in the typical ways I’ve seen discussed. As it is, its just throwing money into a pig trough.

I think removal of Political TV blurbs, known as ads would be a good start, and then requiring all TV (cable and Broadcast) to simultaneously (forcing Joe Lunchbox to turn it off or watch something of value), commercial free, at several dates prior to elections, air debates with all candidates given equal time.

Requiring thoughtful debate, not Madison Avenue psycological trickery, to become the dominant theme might be helpful.

More Funding for Cspan and requiring free access to it by all broadcast,and cable, and internet providers would be another valuable tenet.

Requiring military service of ALL US Citizens might also breathe some fresh air into the elitists use of militarism as an economic device.

When the chicken hawks are risking their sons and daughters lives for their latest “slamdunk” theories perhaps a bit more caution might be exercised.

An electorate more familiar with the workings of our military would be a positive thing, I believe. It would also require the end of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” schizoid nonsense.

Posted by: gergle at March 22, 2006 1:54 PM
Comment #135286

What Enron executives did was illegal. Hence the trials. It was illegal then. It is illegal now. Enron’s political connections seem to have done them no good. Nobody bailed out Enron or even defended them rhetorically.

Enron executives built a very large and politically correct firm during the 1990s. Enron gave money not only to politicians, but also to many good social causes. During boom times like that, people get away with more since the rising economy tends to hide bad management and double dealing.

As a result of such abuses, Congress passed and President Bush signed Sarbanes Oxley to tighten disclosures.

This has little to do with being conservative. Presumably conservatives are no more eager to lose money in a scam than are liberals and beyond that conservative tend to be more often investors (i.e. we would lose money more often). Enron’s business was energy arbitrage, something essentially created by government regulation. And all the build up of abuses occurred during a Democratic Administration. The only thing the Bush Administration did was to catch the crooks.

So as a conservative and an investor, I think it is very bad for anyone to mislead stockholders and I am glad it is illegal to cook the books. I am likely to be a victim of such activity. I believe in the rule of law and generally I don’t lie, cheat or steal or tolerate those who do. So where do we disagree?

Posted by: Jack at March 22, 2006 2:39 PM
Comment #135289

Jack:

Its very salient to note that the vast majority of Enron’s gains came during the 1990’s. Its also salient to note that many on the left blame Bush for Enron, due to his relationship with Ken Lay.

They conveniently ignore the time line that shows Enron’s gains BEFORE the Bush presidency, and how Enron got caught BY the Bush administration. Funny how facts make a picture much clearer.

Stephen:

Don’t like what Enron did. Glad to see Skilling, Fastow, Lay and others being held accountable. But…the Enron situation does show the problems with stockpiling your investments in only one place. Diversity is much safer, though not as exciting. Unfortunately, the ride up is the only excitement; the ride down is sheer horror.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at March 22, 2006 2:55 PM
Comment #135292

Thomas Jefferson said it best:

“The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

Most use this quote as a basis for seperation of church and state (which it is…and I agree with). However, it also lists what Jefferson thinks are the legitimate powers of government….Protection (breaks my leg) and thievery (picks my pocket).

When corportations are allowed to proceed unchecked, greed sets in and the average guy may get run over while corportate entities pursue their greed. I’m not saying all corporations are greedy. There are many great, legitimate, caring companies out there. That said, capitalisim, when it is unchecked, contributes to this culture of greed.

Posted by: tom L at March 22, 2006 3:07 PM
Comment #135295
Ray G. wrote: d.a.n. You are wrong. Corpocrisy and corporatism are not the result of corrupt government. It is the other way around. Corrupt government is the result of Corpocrisy and corporatism.

Hmmmmmm. Not sure about that. Let’s see.
[] Government could stop the corpocrisy. Especially if voters demand it (some day, if ever).
[] Corporations, like any organization, or government, are just as susceptible to corruption.
[] Government is supposed to make and enforce the law.
[] Corporations try to use money to influence government, but so do some people.

Hard to say. It may be like the chicken-and-egg thing. And, it may not matter that much.

The main thing is that government should not be FOR SALE, or controlled by corporations. A free, competitive market is a good thing, but corporations must be regulated. Otherwise, they will use unethical and illegal methods to eliminate competition, which is not a free market, but greed and capitalism run amuck.

But, there is no doubt that campaign-finance and election reform are badly needed. But, irresponsible incumbents won’t allow any such reforms to be passed. As I see it, only the voters can make that happen, and to do it (peacefully), voters will have to start ousting all of the irresponsible incumbents, because the incumbents will not allow newcomers to congress to pass any common-sense reforms.

Also, who would have ever thought the federal government would have grown to the nightmare proportions that it has ?

And it continues to grow, like a cancer.

Unfortunately, by the time voters feel the pain, it may be too late to avoid the painful consequences of their negligence to pay attention to government, alway, lest it grow ever more corrupt.

Posted by: d.a.n at March 22, 2006 3:10 PM
Comment #135297

///
Obligations

Jeffrey Skilling is the brother of Tom Skilling, a well respected meteorologist for WGN and the Tribune in Chicago. When interviewed by Bob Sirott, he talked about the embarrassment, and lack of understanding that the rest of his family felt at the time that the details of the Enron scandal first became news. They would never believed that a member of their family was capable of such a thing.

The only question is this: Where is the money that they looted? What assets are recoverable? The people who support this kind of economic activity want the bankruptcy laws changed for people with fewer assets. They know that the big looters will always hide everything they own offshore, before the smaller investors lose everything.

We can call the people who invested in Enron stupid or naïve … Posted by Stephen Daugherty at March 22, 2006 09:21 AM
Because they were!
They were also victims of con-men like the American people who heard GWBush speak, but voted for him anyway.

I find myself in the odd position of almost agreeing with D.A.N., on this one. Just say no, should become the new mantra, for the politicians so addicted to lobbyists and others who funnel money into their campaigns. That money is added into the cost of doing business, and the whole economy pays for it.

The globalization agenda has placed corporations above nations. They can always close up in one place and open up somewhere else, and mini-states are to go-betweens for the money they are hiding and laundering. Corporations are acting more like Organized Crime, and they actually have contact with them, through lawyers who advise them.
///

Posted by: ohrealy at March 22, 2006 3:47 PM
Comment #135301

Ohrealy, Tom and others

I think you are all missing the point that what Enron did was illegal, against the law, not acceptable. It was then. It is now. You have bad guys, like bank robbers. You don’t need to implicate the bank owners or the depositors.

Enron has no defenders. Republicans, to the extent that they are more likely to be investors, are faced with more risk from shady accounting. You just don’t have an US and them or a moral high ground.

Enron happened while Democrats were guarding the process (the crooks only got caught under Bush). I don’t blame them; I am just saying that there is no way you can blame Republicans.

Ohrealy

This had almost nothing to do with Bush. The most of the illegal behavior occurred before he took office. When the fecal matter struck the cooling device, no politicians did anything to help Enron.

Where did the money go? It largely disappeared. The market in general contracted. Billions were lost, but there was no corresponding gain, just as billions were gained during the dot.com time and nobody lost it. It is not like there is a pile of money somewhere that can be recovered. We can and should recover as much as possible from the bad guys, but it will not be enough.

There is also some real doubt about how much was really lost. If you buy a stock for $10 and it then goes to $100, but crashes back down to $10, how much did you lose? If it goes to 0, how much did you lose? Not many people bought at the very peak. And you should never put more than about 5% of your money into any particular stock, so most prudent investors lost little, but they think they lost a lot. When the stock was at its peak, they all thought “that is what it is worth”. They were wrong.

Posted by: Jack at March 22, 2006 4:14 PM
Comment #135302

very nice Stephen! And from another Houstonian as well - interesting…

The Founders never envisioned modern Corporate America. Corporations were required to have a clear purpose, which they could not deviate from or risk losing their charter. The first corporation, a bank, was driven out of business by the government, triggered by its entering the political arena, an event that was viewed with horror by the founders and their immediate successors.

Myths:

- competition in business was always considered an essential freedom in the US. False.

The modern concept of corporate competition as an essential benefit developed in the late 19th century, on the eve of the era of the robber barons. The most essential freedom, particularly to the Anti-Federalists, was freedom from POVERTY. Without the safeguard of a basic standard of living, independent thought and its free exercise could not be guaranteed.

- Republicans believe in free enterprise. False.

Trick statement. Classical republicanism argues for the equal distribution of wealth. The accumulation of power in a select few, whether a government OR private individuals, was considered by Republicans the GREATEST threat to our liberty.

After the passing of the 14th ammendment, 98% of the cases that reached the Supreme Court related to the prospect of rights for corporations as individuals, and then to defend and clarify those rights.


Anyway, fast forwarding to today, our corporate world goes against the wisdom of the Founders, particularly because of what we see today: corporate greed, political corruption fed by corporate participation in politics, corporate control over individuals.

Dislodging this corporate leech from the federal teet will require nothing short of a populist uprising amongst citizens - as of today, something highly unlikely.

Posted by: CPAdams at March 22, 2006 4:40 PM
Comment #135303

sorry, here is the link on republican theory of the distibution of wealth

Posted by: CPAdams at March 22, 2006 4:45 PM
Comment #135305

CPAdams

This is not a Republican thing. What Enron did was illegal. It happened under Clinton. It stopped under Bush. No politican Democrat or Republican came to the aid of Enron when it collapsed. We are all against that sort of thing and always have been.

I bet Republicans lose more per capita then Dems do when there is such dishonesty. You guys are fighting a straw man.

Posted by: Jack at March 22, 2006 4:54 PM
Comment #135307

Jack-
Not all of what they did was illegal. Much of their sleight of hand accounting was perfectly legal. The thing you have to understand is that Enron was in financial trouble long before anybody knew differently, and that many of the Republican economic reforms ironically helped the debacle come to pass.

Sarbanes Oxley, from what I hear, is a very hard to enforce and comply with law. Trouble with that is that such hard to digest regulations typically end up being badly enforced and only loosely complied with, which defeats the purpose.

Don’t think your folks weren’t pushing much of the changes in the law (especially concerning energy arbitrage). Clinton may have been foolish enough to sign these bills into laws, but for the last decade, who do you think has been running Congress?

I think many conservatives are living in a dream world about this matter, believing that they weren’t responsible for laws that made reporting looser. Take the case of Harvey Pitt. Your president, with his typical tin ear for recruitment signed on Harvey Pitt to head the SECin the wake of Enron. This is the man who lobbied earlier for the loose accounting standard in federal regulations that Enron’s malfeasance could not have occured without.

I don’t think you’ve really had a serious look at the positions your party has taken.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 22, 2006 5:04 PM
Comment #135309

Jack,

Stephen’s post, beyond its discussion of Enron, challenges the freedom of modern corporations and the abuses perpetrated by corporations as a result.

I am going back in time and talking about how corporations were viewed by the founders (with deep mistrust) and that the modern corporation and its basic tenets (free markets, corporate competition) dates only to the late 19th century.

Jack, corporatism is not a founding value of this country. It’s not even a founding value of Republicans, who were as concerned about corporations then as Liberals are now. It’s not a few bad eggs, it’s the nature of beast.

Posted by: CPAdams at March 22, 2006 5:11 PM
Comment #135320

I live in Houston too….
Enron…in a word: WRONG.

Posted by: Mel at March 22, 2006 5:35 PM
Comment #135321

Corporations, in and of themselves, are neither good nor bad. They just exist. The good or bad comes from the management. The biggest problem with current management is a preoccupation with short term gains instead of long term growth. By focussing on the short term, there is a great amount of pressure to present the best possible results. Unfortunately, in the case of Enron and others, this led to upper management doing things that were unethical at best and criminal at worst.

Some solutions would be to tighten up the reporting and auditing requirements. Tieing management compensation to increased value rather than profits could also help. One big item that needs to be changed is the way we punish those who break the law. A person who commits murder can bargain down to manslaughter and go to prison for as little as five years. This is someone who took one life. The management of Enron took the lives of thousands of people. People who had tied their retirements to the stock they held. To me, this is more heinous than murder. Someone who is guilty of this deserves no less than 15-25 years in prison, and I don’t mean a country club. I mean a real prison.

Corporations exist for a purpose. To furnish a product(s) at a fair price and to repay the investors who have taken a chance. I know there are those who think that all stockholders are rich Republicans. Not so. If you are a member of a state retirement system, you are a stockholder. If you own shares in a mutual fund, you are a stockholder. Colleges and Universities are stockholders. And, whether you own ten shares or ten thousand shares, when an Enron meltdown occurs, it hurts.

Reform the laws dealing with coporate accounting. Make them more strict and transparent. Increase the penalties for violations. Elect board members and CEO’s who are more interested in 5 or 10 years down the road than tomorrows earnings report. There are well run corporations that do exactly that. Most them will be around long after the greedy pigs have run their business into the ground, or are in prison.

Posted by: John Back at March 22, 2006 5:40 PM
Comment #135323

CPA and Stephen

There are always crooks. That is why we have laws and that is why we let the market counterbalance the powers and greed of business people. Investors are supposed to pay attention and so are the law enforcers.

Nobody wants corporations to break the law. Investors tend to be Republican more often than not and they have the biggest and most personal stake in honest accounting.

I understand the founders distrust. But you if you revere them so much, and support the original intent, there are lots of other things you should be upset about in modern government. They didn’t see lots of things.

But the simple code that you should not lie, cheat or steal or tolerate those who do, applied then and applies now.

I am an investor. I believe in the free market. I have said on many occassions that the free market cannot exist without the rule of law.

Posted by: Jack at March 22, 2006 5:42 PM
Comment #135325

The damning thing about the late 1990s is all of the brokers and financial analysts saying:

“Did I say sell?”
“No, I meant Buy! Buy! Buy!”

I saw that on a TV commercial, and thought, at the time, it was so funny.

But, sadly, a whole lot of people got burned.

So, has the broker, financial advisor industry recovered from that yet?

As for ENRON, that was out-right fraud, and I believe Ken Lay knew about it, because Sherron Watkins told him about it, and shortly afterward, Ken Lay was researching the ramifications of firing Sherron Watkins.

Posted by: d.a.n at March 22, 2006 5:44 PM
Comment #135327

CPAdams,

If it’s the nature of the beast, then what do you propose?

Government take over of all industry?
More laws?
Get rid of the stock market? (privatize)
Mandatory ceiling on profit levels?
Only democrats can run companies?
Take away all corporations freedoms?


Posted by: Cliff at March 22, 2006 5:50 PM
Comment #135332

The late 1990s to now was the start of the next cycle of corpocrisy and corporatism.
It comes and goes.
Like corrupt government, it is worse at certain times than others.

Cliff,
Emphasis on the basics is the solution.
The solution, how (if) ever it happens, will include a sufficient amount of Transparency and Accountability, including Education to help sustain it.

Responsibility = Power + Education + Transparency + Accountability
Corruption = Power - Education - Transparency - Accountability

That does not mean it will be easy.
But, if we ever get there, will be the real solution. It will not create Utopia, eliminate all crime, or corruption. But, it will greatly reduce it. And all of it is in the grasp of the voters to make it so, if they ever come to realize it.

Posted by: d.a.n at March 22, 2006 5:59 PM
Comment #135340

Bushco is quietly working to elliminate defined benefit pensions by changeing the rules of the pension garentee corp. Their rule changes will force many funds into recievership where participents get pennies on the dollar and companies get off the hook for promises made. It is possible taxpayers will get stuck holding the bag but for now pension funds that are in good shape are stuck with paying eight fold increases in their insuarence premiums,also not fair.
I am not a big fan of capital punishment but if we want to apply it to where it might do some good,how about pension rip-offs?

Posted by: BillS at March 22, 2006 6:38 PM
Comment #135343

Mousalini said “Corporatism is fascism.”He should know.
Corporations are not natural antropological constructs like the nuclear family,tribe or community. They are legal constructs licensed by the state. That means they can be unlicensed. A code of conduct can be imposed or changed by the state. The whole notion of granting civil rights to such constructs,the same as granted to individuals is recent ,wrong and changeable. “Endowed by their Creator…” does not apply.

Posted by: BillS at March 22, 2006 7:00 PM
Comment #135351

Bill

Corporatism refers to the political structure where people are represented by their group membership rather than as individuals. It shares the latin root with corporation, but that is just about all.

Without corporations, you cannot have a modern industrial state. Life was much worse before that.

What we need is the rule of law too. When you have the rule of law, sometimes people break the laws.

What Enron did was illegal. We have laws against murder. When someone is murdered, do we throw out the system of justice?

There is more passion than reason in the Enron affair. People are angry, but they are not angry at the right person, to the right extent or to the right end.

Enron executives broke the law. Be angry with them. The market caught them and then the law went after them. Rule of law does not mean there are never any crimes. It means we react to punish them.

Posted by: Jack at March 22, 2006 7:52 PM
Comment #135370

///
Jack, to my understanding, Enron was running their own futures market. People invested. California had to pay more for energy. There was money involved somewhere, and there were offshore dealings. Are Lay, Skilling and Fastow, living in the projects now?

John Beck, I do not care about anyone going to jail unless they actually committed murder. Everyone else should have to make restitution. Jailtime for these people will never be in proportion to the amount of their fraud.

Investment in stocks should be based primarily on dividends, not on hopes of selling the stock at a higher price. Many good stocks trade at about the same price for years. Others are promoted by brokers, to get commissions. The price of the stock goes up artificially, based on sales.

Hucksters are on television and radio telling millions of people to buy specific stocks. This kind of system that creates the bubbles that burst.
///

Posted by: ohrealy at March 22, 2006 9:30 PM
Comment #135376

Jack,

the reason the anger continues is that restitution was not available as a remedy for the thousands defrauded by Enron. Skilling and Lay and Fastow getting a few years at a country club prison does not fix things.

Your reasonable tone about the matter seems to ignore the root cause.

The market caught them and then the law went after them.

The market didn’t catch them, Jack. That is an outrageously false statement. Enron was required by LAW to file the audited financial statements that began the downward spiral - no market required that.

The “market” was fooled by Ken Lay until the very end. Well, more correctly stated, the best educated, best informed investors in the market cashed out while the getting was good. The employees and little guys and the less knowledgeable who bought into his lies were the ones who kept buying on the way down.

There is no such thing as a self-policing “market”. In the absence of laws and restrictions, there is no way to distinguish legitmate investments from scams. Even with our legal framework, it is quite difficult.

What this has to do with being conservative? It is the conservatives who resent the regulation, the oversight, the way in which liberals get in the way of business doing business. It is conservatives who push to eliminate “restrictions” on business.

My point is that without those restrictions, the “market” is incapable of preventing the Enrons.

Posted by: CPAdams at March 22, 2006 9:59 PM
Comment #135378

Ohrealy

Yes. We should punish the Enron execs who did the illegal deeds. But much of the money will not be recoverable.

Re dividends - it depends on the business. In a growth stage, the business reinvests its profits rather than given them out as dividends.

But you can’t contol prices anyway. What if a firm just becomes more valuable because its assets appreciate?

Are you a home owner? If you home appreciated, should you have to sell off some of it to keep it at the same price?

I have been investing in stocks since 1991. I learned not to be stupid. The tuition is high, but you learn. I never invested in something like Enron nor in the dot.com bubble firms. I didn’t make piles of money, but I didn’t lose them either. If you can’t figure out how the firm maks money, maybe there is a reason.

Most people in the slick investments seem to be trying to make money too fast. I think they call that greed.

Posted by: Jack at March 22, 2006 10:05 PM
Comment #135384

CPA

BOth the market and the laws alone can’t prevent Enrons. The most spectacular corruption takes place in controlled economies. The freer the economy, generally the more honest business (and government).

I repeat, free markets cannot exist without the rule of law. I support laws designed to prevent dishonesty and protect contracts. I object to regulations that try to micromanage firms, determine outcomes or dictate “fairness”. You saw Ohrealy’s comment about dividends. I have no doubt that he is being sincere and trying to do good. But if you tried to regulate such things, you would cripple innovation.

Enron broke laws and violated commonly understood ethics and customs of the market. Such thing often happen at the end of long booms, since the boom times hide bad behavior. Booms also make people greedy and more willing to risk. It is probably unavoidable part of human systems.

We have corruption in all societies. The bigger and more dynamic ones gives more opportunities for both corruption and innovation.

COnsider the alternatives. Big economies where government calls the shots, such as China or Russia, are so corrupt that you can’t invest with any confidence at all unless you have insider power. In the completely conrolled economies, you can’t invest at all. The government determines who gets what completely by corruption.

Posted by: Jack at March 22, 2006 10:33 PM
Comment #135395

///
Jack, people are more likely to downsize their homes or condos, because of local tax levies. Many people in my area can not afford to live in the communities where they grew up.

I live in an area with an aging population, where schools are closing, but we are threatened by eminent domain. The municipality is trying to increase the tax base through redevelopment, and do not care what businesses, residences, or historic buildings stand in their way.

I am glad that you were smart enough to see through Enron, the dot coms would have been a harder call.

If a person publicizes a stock that he is buying, and then sells it when it appreciates, while telling other people not to sell until after he sells, is he committing a crime?
///

Posted by: ohrealy at March 22, 2006 11:10 PM
Comment #135401

Jack

Mussolini refered to corporatism,corporate state,corporative(depends on translation as being part of Fascism. see: The Doctrine of Fascism 1932

Early examples of corporation are the Hudson Bay Company,Dutch East Indies Company et al. These organization were licensed by the crown(state). Although corporate organization of the economy is not the only possible model ,for the sake of this discussion lets assume it is . It is after all the one we have to deal with,plusses and minuses. The point I was trying to make was that corporations are granted charters by the state(states) and these charters carry certain rights. The right to acquire and hold property for example.There are also great protections for corporate owners and officers like a degree of personal immunity for corporate actions or financial misfortune. These rights are neccessary to do business. Unfortunately through legislation and suspect court rulings these rights have been expanded to include the full range of civil rights granted individuals in the Bill of Rights.Corporations have abused these priveleges to warp government policies for their own ends from forign policy to land use questions.Their interest often run contrary to the public good and sometimes even common sense. We as a people do not have to allow these rights. We do not have to allow corporate participation in the political process at all for example. We can and should intervene to lower drug prices for example. Generally it is better off to let them alone but the pendulum for laizze faire has swung to far and drastic measures are called for to insure our national survival.Granted this has occured under both parties but the recontrol of corporations is more likely to occur under a populist Democratic administration at this time even giving all due respect to T. Rosevelt and the Bull Moose Reps.

On another thread. I live in California,an especially blue part of it(North Coast). It is accepted here that Enron was in cahoots with the Whitehouse to punish California for not voting for Bush. It is assumed that is what Cheny’s refusal to disclose the minutes of his meeting with the big energy producers is all about. The theory is that this was done to as part of an orchestrated move to get rid of the Democratic governor,replace him with a Rep who later sees to it that suspect voting machines are certified for California along with other measures to rig elections like reaportionment. There is no evidence(yet anyway) but much of this has come to pass. It would surprise no one here
Personally, I am a construction carpenter and I lost a days pays when we were caught in a rolling blackout curtesy of Enron. I owe Skilling and Lay a smack in the mouth.

Posted by: BillS at March 22, 2006 11:36 PM
Comment #135404

Jack,

and you accuse me of straw man arguments??? I said

It is the conservatives who resent the regulation, the oversight, the way in which liberals get in the way of business doing business. It is conservatives who push to eliminate “restrictions” on business.

and in response, you say

We have corruption in all societies. The bigger and more dynamic ones gives more opportunities for both corruption and innovation.

COnsider the alternatives. Big economies where government calls the shots, such as China or Russia, are so corrupt that you cant invest with any confidence at all unless you have insider power.

I think we can provide better safeguards against corporate abuses without turning into China - don’t you?

I think the greatest inhibition on capital will be the lack of confidence in corporations themselves, particularly if they are viewed as instruments designed to enrich the executive team at the expense of the owners. Given our recent scandals and the ever growing complaints about CEO compensation, we are closer to this scenario every day.

Posted by: CPAdams at March 22, 2006 11:58 PM
Comment #135405

I meant to say

greatest inhibition on capital investment

Posted by: CPAdams at March 22, 2006 11:59 PM
Comment #135422

Terrific article, and wow, so beautifully written! Bravo, Stephen.

I also liked your follow up to Jack — because I think it is very true that a lot of Republicans don’t look all that closely and seriously at many of the positions their party has taken.
Did you see the film ‘Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room’? If you haven’t, you definitely should. They really do a good job covering every single aspect of the company and the crimes they committed. Gotta warn you though, it’s bound to make you deeply outraged and disgusted.

PS. Good posts in this thread all around.

Posted by: Adrienne at March 23, 2006 2:21 AM
Comment #135426

Stephen,

As usual you’ve presented a very valid point. But, to be honest, I’ve not followed the whole Enron scandal that closely. I do however remember getting burned to the tune of about thirty grand in the “savings and loan” debacle which I believe, without research to refresh my memory, took place while Papa Bush was still VP. And the S&L that stung me was basically a branch of Silverado S&L. But that’s all ancient history.

I do have a favor to ask of you or any of the editors (I lack the ability to create my own presentation),which I don’t think is completely “off-point”. Yesterday afternoon and evening I was at the senior center and here’s the story:

I’ve stated before that about 50% of the elderly I speak to at the senior center are very disappointed in the Medicare part D program. Well, I’d have to say now that it’s much closer to 70%, and those who have been hurt the most are the truly poor. I’m talking about folks who are living on $500 to $700 a month. But that’s still not my point right now.

Bush’s new budget calls for the elimination of what these folks call “the Commodity Program”. The official name is the Commodity Supplemental Food Program. I’ve been trying to follow the news and find out what the actual status of the program is. From what most of these senoirs tell me the following article is the most exemplary:

http://pittsburghlive.com/x/tribune-review/s_434618.html

A few notable quotes:

“Earlier this year, the supplemental program was trimmed by 9.2 percent, and eligibility guidelines will change next month. Those changes stopped some seniors from getting the food, valued at nearly $50 per box but acquired by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for about $15 per container.”

“Typically included in the food box are a 2-pound block of low-fat cheese, fruit juice, canned fruit and vegetables, pasta, canned meat and cereal.”

” Jean Novak, of Penn Township, is among those no longer eligible. She got $32 more per month this year in her Social Security check — and that put her out of the program, she said. At the same time, Novak said, costs for heat, cable and her other bills went up more than her Social Security check did”

My point really is, “what the hell are we doing?” Most of these poor seniors I’m talking about are in their 70’s and 80’s, a few even in their 90’s! What the f*** is up with this sh*t? We still profess to be the greatest power on earth but we starve our poor?

And this is the budget of a “compassionate” conservative. I’ll grant you I don’t understand being truly poor, but I’d like to believe that no American (especially the elderly or the children) need to feel hunger. I feel truly ashamed.

KansasDem

Posted by: KansasDem at March 23, 2006 6:27 AM
Comment #135438

Bill S:

Help me understand.

It is accepted here that Enron was in cahoots with the Whitehouse to punish California for not voting for Bush. It is assumed that is what Cheny’s refusal to disclose the minutes of his meeting with the big energy producers is all about. The theory is that this was done to as part of an orchestrated move to get rid of the Democratic governor,replace him with a Rep who later sees to it that suspect voting machines are certified for California along with other measures to rig elections like reaportionment. There is no evidence(yet anyway) but much of this has come to pass.

It sounds like a whole lot of assumptions, guesses and theories, and the coup de grace is that you admit there is no evidence. That doesn’t make for a very strong case, does it?
If we allow ourselves down the road to not requiring any evidence at all, then where are we?

Logically, of course, the theory falls apart pretty quickly. We know that Enron was using illegal accounting methods for years before Bush took office, yet you accuse Bush of using Enron to “punish” California. How did Bush control Enron’s practices in California while governor of Texas? And are we to assume that the entire Clinton admin and Gray Davis admin were so laughably inept that they never saw Bush’s invisible hand controlling Enron?

Just to be clear, I’m all for going after Enron execs, and that is happening. That they are being prosecuted pokes another Titanic sized hole in your theory—if they were part of the scheme to penalize California, why would they accept jail time and fines as their reward?

Posted by: joebagodonuts at March 23, 2006 8:38 AM
Comment #135442

Ohrealy

If the person is a broker or has a fiduciary interest, it is a crime. If you just go and tell all your friends, you are just dishonest.

And during the dot.com time, I felt pretty stupid. Everyone was saying how the old business models didn’t work anymore. I just couldn’t figure it out. The key is to get rich slowly.

Bill

Your conspiracy theory about Enron and Bush is just that - a conspiracy theory. It doesn’t make sense on so many levels. If it is accepted out there, maybe you all should get out more.

Re corporatism - Fascism is a form of corporatism, but the corporation is not particularly related. In fascism, corporations do not enjoy the freedom to determine markets, prices etc. These are done by the state. It is closer to a liberal Dem than a conservative Republican formulation.

The examples you give (Hudson Bay etc) were para statal corporations. They actually had the powers we now grant only to governments. The East India Company essentially conquered India. Even Enron had no such ambitions.

The modern corporation’s key attributes are limited liability (hence the British term limited) and the ability to engage in business despite changes in management and ownership. Without these things, a modern functioning free market is not possible and all the innovation of the past two centuries would be at risk. There are actually few things as important to our prosperity as the corporation structure, but we take it for granted like the air we breathe.

We have laws to regulate corporations. They work well most of the time. We had a nine-year economic boom from March 1991-March 2000. That allowed a lot of the poor performers and the downright crooks to hide in the growth. Nobody favors that. It is not a conservative issue or a Republican one (nor a liberal or Dem for that matter).

The bad things happened under a Democratic Administration, when Democratic appointees ran the enforcement. Yes, they should have done a better job, but it is understandable that mistakes happen.

CPA

I said that I strongly support the rule of law and regulations for honest accounting, transparency and enforcement of contracts. The liberal regulations I oppose are those that try to micromanage corporation, determine their markets, interfere with their pricing and try to control profits.

You guys really are attacking a straw man. NOBODY supports Enron. The Enron buildup happened when DEMOCRATS REGULATED ENRON. We all agree it was a bad thing. It was illegal then. It is illegal now. Throw them all in jail. There is nobody arguing the other side.

Posted by: Jack at March 23, 2006 9:27 AM
Comment #135447

CPAdams,

You still have not answered my question…

What do you suggest to curb the rampant illegal behavior in the corporate world? How many more and what kind of restrictions do you want that are not there now?

AND don’t give me the fluffy philosophical fanfare like D.A.N. did…(R=PETA)

Posted by: Ciff at March 23, 2006 9:47 AM
Comment #135450

///
KansasDem, Most of the help that an elderly or disabled person can get comes from more local governments. Where I live, the township and the municipality will provide better food assistance than what you are talking about. The state still provides food stamps through a link card. The combination of these will allow for a good diet.

The problem is that the elderly person actually has to apply for all these in person, and get the food in person, which may be difficult. In addition, every major church in my area has a community meal program, they alternate on different days, and as a last resort, there is a community nutrition program which provides meals on wheels. The income has to be very low for these, but they take into account the persons living expenses.

I do not think that anyone expects the federal government to do anything like this anymore.
///

Posted by: ohrealy at March 23, 2006 10:16 AM
Comment #135451

Cliff,

“What do you suggest to curb the rampant illegal behavior in the corporate world? How many more and what kind of restrictions do you want that are not there now?”

Gee, let me think.

All of this tomfoolery started with the roll back of regulations during the Regean administration.
Ya think that we could reveiw those changes and and make the corporations responsible again?

Posted by: Rocky at March 23, 2006 10:21 AM
Comment #135452

Rocky,


Be a little more specific…

Posted by: Cliff at March 23, 2006 10:34 AM
Comment #135456

Cliff,

First of all, let me state I am not for any laws that protect the consumer from himself.
Most of the problems seem to come directly from the inate greed of the American consumer. We don’t seem to understand that if something is too good to be true that it probably is, ie; “there’s a sucker born every minute”.
That said, blind capitalism, and by that I mean the urge to take as much money from the suckers as you possibly can, needs to be curtailed.
A perfect example is Social Security. The money is invested for the public and raided regularly, those that have done the raiding should be held accountable for it’s disapearance. Pension funds should be untouchable. Health Insurance is one of the greatest scams perpetrated against the American public.
Please don’t tell me that medicine is expensive to produce, I know better.
Why are medical companies spending billions to advertise on TV to a public that doesn’t have a clue, and hiding the risks in the small print.

The credit card industry is another criminal activity.
Why are these folks giving credit to people they know can’t pay it back?
Look, if you want to help people establish credit, force them to secure themselves.

The biggest offender is the U.S. government. We spend money that we don’t have and cut the only means to aquire that money, three or four times in the last 5 years.

I could go on and on.

Posted by: Rocky at March 23, 2006 11:05 AM
Comment #135468

Rocky:

The credit card industry is another criminal activity.Why are these folks giving credit to people they know can’t pay it back?

I have a fundamental faith in the consumer’s right to do as they choose, presuming of course that they remain responsible for their decisions. The credit card companies put their product out there—the consumer chooses to utilize the product.

If we hold the corporation liable for providing a product (a worthwhile product when used appropriately), then are we not taking freedom of choice away from the consumer?

I use credit cards whenever and wherever possible (I get free air fares as a result). I have no consumer debt, since I buy what I can afford and I pay off the card at the end of every month. Did you catch that? I buy only what I can afford. Most of the consumer debt is from people who buy what they canNOT afford. There are those who simply are in a world of financial hurt who have to rely on credit cards due to specific causes, but these are not the majority.

Taking the logic of blaming the corporation for the actions of the consumer, we can then justify the lawsuits against fast food companies (who force people to become fat), hit up car companies (who force people to exceed the speed limit by making cars that will do so), sue candy companies (who force innocent consumers into diabetes with their products) etc.

People have the right and the ability to say NO. I toss most credit card apps unopened into the recycling bin. I’ve learned to say no. Rather than blaming the corporation, lets teach people how to say no to things that can hurt them.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at March 23, 2006 11:53 AM
Comment #135470

Cliff,

how about:

- eliminating offshoring(this alone would have made life much more difficult for the Enron crew)

- full disclosure of executive compensation, including perquisites

- capping executive compensation at some set multiple of average salaries

- allowing shareholders to directly nominate directors for the board

- full disclosure of private loans to top executives

- full disclosure of corporate lobbying

- the elimination of ALEC along with a a roster of members

Any other reform/regulation not mentioned above that prevents executives from public corporations from looting them as if they were private banks.

Can’t imagine this would affect competition too much.

Posted by: CPAdams at March 23, 2006 11:55 AM
Comment #135472

I do want to make it clear that I was only reporting a theory. Time will tell. It would be nice if Cheny released the notes of that meeting. Did not most of the abuses occur under Bush? The planned assault on Californias energy supply occured under Bush,did it not?

Jack
I would submit that corps. are acting “para statal” and need to be prevented from exerciseing so much influence on government policy. Example: The installation of the Shah in Iran to protect American oil interest.US policy in Central America to favor United Fruit et al. The legacy of this influece is haunting us today all over the world.I use these abuses as they are well documented. There are plenty of other examples out there both internationally and domestically.

Posted by: BillS at March 23, 2006 11:58 AM
Comment #135474

A small move in the right direction that would also help the deficit would be to no longer accept the money spent by corporations for influence as a tax deductable business expense.

Posted by: BillS at March 23, 2006 12:19 PM
Comment #135475

Joe,

“If we hold the corporation liable for providing a product (a worthwhile product when used appropriately), then are we not taking freedom of choice away from the consumer?”

You give the American consumer more credit for making good choices than I do.

“I toss most credit card apps unopened into the recycling bin. I’ve learned to say no.”

I toss ALL credit card apps into the recycling bin, These are an impingement on my free time, and I resent the time it takes me to dispose of them.
This is a scam to separate the American consumer from his money, and to compound the damage we now have morgage companies selling themselves as saviors for allowing people to morgage their houses to get out of credit card debt.

“Taking the logic of blaming the corporation for the actions of the consumer, we can then justify the lawsuits against fast food companies (who force people to become fat), hit up car companies (who force people to exceed the speed limit by making cars that will do so), sue candy companies (who force innocent consumers into diabetes with their products) etc.”

Joe, I do blame car companies for putting out a shoddy product and them sweeping any evidence against them under the rug.

Posted by: Rocky at March 23, 2006 12:19 PM
Comment #135480

Rocky:

Do you believe in allowing people to make their own choices? If yes, then why not in their financial decisions?

Re credit cards: Used properly, they are a great advantage. I don’t carry cash and I use my card all the time. As a result, I actually get to use the credit card company’s money for up to 30 days for free. To top that off, the free airline mileage I get has netted me probably 6 round trip airfares for my family. As a result, I don’t resent credit cards at all.

As far as the car companies, let them put out a shoddy product. There is a reason that GM lost 10 billion last year and Toyota made billions—-its called consumer decisions. Sweeping evidence under the rug sounds criminal—I don’t agree with that.

Caveat Emptor—-buyer beware. Lets put a little bit of the burden on the buyer to make a good deal. The market, along with laws, should keep the corporations holding some of the burden.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at March 23, 2006 1:01 PM
Comment #135486
Cliff wrote: CPAdams, You still have not answered my question. What do you suggest to curb the rampant illegal behavior in the corporate world? How many more and what kind of restrictions do you want that are not there now? AND don’t give me the fluffy philosophical fanfare like D.A.N. did…(R=PETA)

Sorry, Cliff. Not merely fluffy philosophy.
Just common sense.
We will get nowhere with out understanding the basics:
(1) First, Education to understand the Problem.
(2) Second, The Solution.

If you want quick fixes, it ain’t likely.
And, no reforms are likely until voters understand and account for the human factor, and them act, vote responsibly, to peacefully force government to be responsible and accountable too; instead of allowing themselves to be manipulated. Got to take off the partisan blinders. That is the detractor used to divide voters, and seduce them into partisan warfare, while we all forget the truly substantive issues.

But, Cliff, do you have an idea (prioritized) of the nations most pressing problems, and and solutions?

P.S. What does (R=PETA) mean ?

Posted by: d.a.n at March 23, 2006 1:43 PM
Comment #135487

Cliff,
That is, enforcement of the law would be a good start. No?
Where’s the SEC?
Why does it take so long to indict the crooks and get to court?
And, even when they get convicted, they get off easy.
And, where’s all the money they swindled?
At any rate, accountability seems like a valid approach.
Just, simply enforce existing laws better.

Posted by: d.a.n at March 23, 2006 1:47 PM
Comment #135491

One last thought.
Transparency is one of the vital components to the health and prosperity of any organization or society (or government).
But, too few recognize its importance.

Responsibility = Power + Education + Transparency + Accountability
Corruption = Power - Education - Transparency - Accountability

This is not intended to mere be malicious.
It’s just the way things are when corruption has been allowed to grow too far out of control.

And, the longer corruption is allowed to grow, the harder, and more painful it will be to remedy the situation.

But, you may ask, what doe Transparency mean?
How do you get more of it?

Well, often, it is a simple, common-sense look at things that are complicated, and make them less complicated. Often, over-complications are used to hide things. Take One-Purpose-Per-BILL for instance. That would bring some much needed transparency to an abused process.

Many such simplifications can discourage crime.

We can debate reforms of kinds here forever, but none are likely if we never address the root, core problem, take into account the human factor, and design our organizations and governments to account for that human factor (laziness).

Posted by: d.a.n at March 23, 2006 1:55 PM
Comment #135494

Joe,

“Do you believe in allowing people to make their own choices? If yes, then why not in their financial decisions?”

Yes I do, but that said, allowing the companies to give cards that the companies know are irresponsible costs you and I tons of money. The law that just passed for bankruptcy, makes it harder for dillegent people like you and I to make a fresh start after a possible bad stretch.

“As far as the car companies, let them put out a shoddy product.”

The problem is that their shoddy product can kill people, and not just the drivers of their products. It’s apalling to here that they think it’s cheeper to pay off the lawsuits, than it is to fix the problems.

“Caveat Emptor—-buyer beware. Lets put a little bit of the burden on the buyer to make a good deal. The market, along with laws, should keep the corporations holding some of the burden.”

Like I said, you give the dolts more credit for intellegence than I do.


Posted by: Rocky at March 23, 2006 2:06 PM
Comment #135495

jbod,

free will n. 1. The ability or discretion to choose; free choice. 2. The power, attributed esp. to human beings, of making free choices that are unconstrained by external circumstances or by necessity. ~ The American Heritage Dictionary, Second College Edition

Kind of puts a limit on a good bit of the marketplace, doesn’t it? Resisting much of the marketing that we are bombarded with is certainly will power, but succumbing to it doesn’t qualify as free will.

Jefferson said that someone in poverty was incapable of the economic stability that was, for him, a prerequisite of independent thought. After much reflection, I can’t bring myself to disagree with this statement. What do you think?

Accepting that statement doesn’t necessarily reflect well on Democrats, either. It means that the substantial majority of the inner city poor vote for us out of necessity, not by choice.

But it also means that the poor do not, by and large, freely choose inferior health, poor financial decisions, and undereducation.

Corporations that exploit such people who are generally not exercising free will are predators. Trying to maintain some control over them, to me, is a matter of civic duty.

Posted by: CPAdams at March 23, 2006 2:08 PM
Comment #135499

So CPA by your own logic, the Democratic Party is a Predator on the votes of the poor. And the poor need the Democrats to protect them from predatory corporate greed. Since it’s ok for Predator’s to regulate Predator’s, why don’t we have Citibank represent the Democrats on the Ethics Committee in the House?

Posted by: Rob at March 23, 2006 2:14 PM
Comment #135508

Rob,

Did I make some surprising new declaration by saying that the poor folks from Harlem or the South Side of Chicago vote Democrat out of economic necessity, ie, the Republicans aren’t doing anything for them?

Truth be told, it says alot about Republicans too, who have not offered anything to the people who vote Democrat 7 out of every 8.

It says nothing about how they would vote if they had some choices. It just means they pick us now because they have to.

Posted by: CPAdams at March 23, 2006 2:48 PM
Comment #135530

Interesting point about the Republicans. It seems a bit ironic though that the two largest expansions of social programs in the last 25 years have come under Republican Presidents while the largest retraction came under a Democrat.

It seems that they pick the Democrats now because like the Republicans with evangelical Christians, the Democrats have successfully maintained an image of representing the poor without really doing it.

Posted by: Rob at March 23, 2006 4:32 PM
Comment #135587

As a Democrat, I can recognize that people should not be mollycoddled in the market. They have an obligation to look into matters, or get a professional involved to make sure that their investments are as sound as can be.

The Republicans, though, seem to want them to become hardened professional investors, taking on the kind of research that taken far enough would preclude doing any other kind of work. We have to recognize that most people are content to leave their money in the hands of professionals.

Here’s the first link in the chain of obligations: Fund Managers and Stockbrokers. In one sense, some of them were as blindsided as their clients. Others, though, were prompted to relentlessly sell this stock and other stocks by their companies. Republicans spearheaded deregulation in corporate finance, and broke the separation between investment banking and equities and bond brokerages. The same corporation could spend their investor’s money shoring up a bad company, and tell their stockbrokers to sell their customers stock for companies they knew to be plagued with problems.

Then Come the accountants, the auditors. Again, deregulation allowed looser accounting standards, meaning that a company could list potential sales as actual, and project sales that were by no means certain as solid assets. Also, you had the same people doing the audits of the books as those who were doing the consulting, meaning that an effort was possible from both sides to defraud investors, the auditors by not exercizing due diligence, the consultants by cooperating in schemes to hide losses and fake profits.

Then comes the obligation of the corporate board members, executives and CEOs. These are the people who are supposed to lead the company to profitability, who are supposed to guide and shape the behavior of the company. They can fail at the very least by being ignorant, and at the worst by planning the fraud, the lies, and the malfeasances themselves.

The Red Column seems to tell people that the market has punished Enron. Did it? Well I suppose it did, but a fat lot of good that did. It was belated punishment, punishment that should have been administered all along. The actions of the Enron executives and board members, many of them legal, some of them not, prevented people from knowing the ugly truth.

The freeness of this market is inverse to the forces that would deprive people of informed choice. The hiding of crucial, accurate information about a corporation’s financial health makes the market into a shell game, a hustle, where corporations can take even the professionals for their money, if the professionals are not already in on the con.

The purpose of business is to get things done. Bakers get bread and other things baked, oil companies gather raw petroleum, refine it and distribute it, insurance companies make sure that people can distribute and pool costs for different potential disasters and health problems over time.

Trouble is, nowadays, is that people have this attitude that the purpose of the business is to make money for the people who found the business. That is a small part of the truth, and one that only comes into play after a number of conditions have been met. Taking a business public, or issuing bonds adds obligations to the investors, obligations to provide clear, reliable information, and to provide a return on the investment.

And yet many corporate leaders want those somethings for nothing. How many businesses had to restate their financial condition after Enron? How many investors still must wonder whether they’re just fools being separated from their money, or whether they’ve got a good investment on their hands, even when they have the information that should make that more clear?

This kind of unconsoled anxiety hurts the real market, the real economy. And to the extent that people may still be defrauding investors, our gains over the past few years may be no less the mirage than the wealth supposedly generated in that bubble.

But the Republicans don’t want to regulate. For some strange reason, they equate restrictions on a business’s behavior as being equivalent to a tax or a subsidy or some other kind of non-free market interference. Whether this is genuine or not, it’s wrong.

It’s one thing to run an economy on competition, where the talents and resources of one business squares of with another. It’s another to have an economy based on sharp dealing, and who can get people to believe the lies the longest. The more we continue with such a system, the more our economy becomes based on fictions. One lie uncovered can collapse the economy, as that one lie reveals still others, and prompts people to look around to see whether they’re being decieved to.

The Market cannot be counted upon to ensure honesty, because it makes no distinction between the lie and the truth until it is known. Therefore, mechanisms need to be in place to reveal such information, and require its reporting Without a firm legal obligation to do so, many competitive businessmen will keep their secrets in order to manipulate the investors. The Market cannot be counted upon to interfere with abusive economic behavior when that behavior is neither illegal, nor unprofitable, at least in the short term.

Ultimately trusting the market to save us all is like trusting everybody to be psychic and wise. We cannot expect the market to govern itself. That is not to say that government should step in and manipulate from central planning. Instead, government should enforce standards and regulations ensuring that companies are what they say they are, and not con games for making executives and board members money.

Rules keep the games worth playing. When winning in the economic sense does not depend upon productive behavior and rewarded excellence, then what we are encouraging is not a productive economy, but instead niches for the worst of our economic predators.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 23, 2006 7:50 PM
Comment #135620

CPAdams:

Jefferson said that someone in poverty was incapable of the economic stability that was, for him, a prerequisite of independent thought. After much reflection, I can’t bring myself to disagree with this statement. What do you think?

I said in an earlier post that there are certainly those who have little choice in the open market. I know a friend who refurbished old homes for resale. He expanded his efforts, buying several homes, the week before he and his wife were both laid off, sending him into a deep financial spiral. To his credit, he never declared bankruptcy, though the law would have allowed him to, and paid every penny back to those he owed. Took him 10 years to do so, but he felt his honor in meeting the obligations he took on was more important than not doing so.

So there are those who simply fall into the cracks, and society needs to be mindful of them. I know another person who claimed to be unable to afford health insurance. A single homeowner, she made the same income I did while I had 2 kids and a wife (and health insurance). What I did NOT have was a fancy boat docked at a toney harbor. Had she become sick, she very well would have been unable to financially meet her obligations, but I think we can agree that her priorities were messed up.

Most people—-most—-can avoid the temptation of easy money that credit cards provide. Just as we can say no to the second large piece of sugary cake, we too can say no to the allure of easy money.

I don’t like that the credit card companies market to those they know may abuse the cards. Its not the kind of business I’d like to be in. But its akin to a barkeeper who knows a certain percentage of his clientele will be or become alcoholic. Should we shut down his business? The parallels are similar.

While I wouldn’t want to be a barowner for that reason, neither would I want to be a marketer for credit card companies. But I also wouldn’t put the majority of blame on either of those groups. I’d put the responsibility on the individual to use the available services in an appropriate manner.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at March 24, 2006 7:56 AM
Comment #135622

Joe-
I would think, though, that while it’s good for a consumer to go into something knowing the risks, it should also be the obligation of the vendors, regardless of their business, to give their customers full disclosure about the known risks of the products, and others when they become known. It’s useless for somebody to be careful and conscientious about what they buy and whose services they engage, if the vendors can give them less than the full truth about the product. One of the problems here is that companies that knew what bad shape Enron and Worldcom (among other companies) were in nonetheless loaned them investors money, and got other investors to buy their stock knowing the weakness of the businesses involved.

Cigarette makers repeatedly asserted, despite years of their own research and that of others, that their product wasn’t addictive, that the health risks weren’t so bad. Automakers often hide defects.

Corporations get their names blackened when folks discover that they’re making more money than they’re really earning, in both senses of the term “earn”. When that happens, folks get cynical, learn not to trust the companies, because they know they’ll get screwed. We need to move to a system that gives people enough meaningful data to make informed decisions. Then you can fairly tell people that they have to take responsibilities for the risks they take.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 24, 2006 8:13 AM
Comment #135666

CPAdams:

The Founding Fathers also looked with great distrust on the two party system. George Washington went so far as to say the two party system would destroy the country. History may prove Washington right.

Posted by: Bill M. at March 24, 2006 1:39 PM
Comment #135704

Stephen,

You make some pretty broad accusations against Republican’s being complicit in shady dealings on the part of corporations. As Jack has pointed out several times above, the majority of these bad deeds started under a Democratic administration. The same administration took far more donations from Silicon Valley than their opponents and presided over a booming economy and tax receipts that were built upon the .com mirage. Should we be calling for a full investigation into why the on-line Pet Food Store sold so much stock? The government made millions if not billions in taxes based on the proceeds of .com stock sales in the 90’s. Why didn’t the government do more to warn the least savvy investors that mortgaging their house to buy govworks.com?

I’m not about to be silly enough to hang this around the Clinton administration’s neck, and I think that it is disingenous for you or Paul to try to hang it around the Republican’s neck.

This isn’t a Democrat problem. This isn’t a Republican problem. It is a business problem. There is no doubt that solving it requires the govenment to play an oversight role. That’s why Sarbanes-Oxley was passed 423-3 in a Republican Congress and signed into law by a Republican President.

The act has reshaped the way public companies are required to report their earnings. Many of the reforms that you are calling for are already here and have been codified in this law. It holds executives personally responsible to both civil and criminal statues for violating it. It requires that the full compensation package for CE0’s and CFO’s be disclosed. And most importantly, it calls for the increased transparency that you think is the panacea.

As one of the probably many here that work for a public company, I can tell you that it has indeliably changed the way that companies forecast and track profits. Officers at my company have litterally had the fear of jail put into them and are responding accordingly.

You also made a point about full disclosure of risks about products. Since we are talking about financial products here, I have to ask, how much more information do we need? I can’t get through the first 3 paragraph of fine print on a mutual fund prospectus, must less the following 10 pages. The answer in my mind is not more warning, but better packaging of the information that we already have.

We need a Consumer Reports style publication of the financial industry. Something that can take the highly technical information and boil it down to those nice pretty circle charts which an educated investor can understand. If anyone knows of such a think, post a link, I’d be most interested.

Posted by: Rob at March 24, 2006 5:19 PM
Comment #135899

Rob-
You and Jack have this tendency to remind people that Clinton was president without also recalling What congress was writing the laws, and what they were saying at the time. You also forget The Clinton/New Liberal direction, and the tendency of Democrats of the time to follow the direction of the Republicans for the sake of winning more elections. Deregulation has been mainly a Republican cause.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 25, 2006 11:13 PM
Comment #135952

Stephen,

You have the same tendancy to forget that there was a Republican Congress under Clinton when pointing to his success in balancing the budget and passing Welfare Reform.

The reason that I have pointed out the Clinton was in change is that the point of government that failed in the Enron case was not the righting of laws but the enforcing of them. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the SEC and the IRS both report to the Adminsitrative branch of government headed by the President not the legislative branch. That is why the fact that Clinton was President at the time of the wrong-doing is important.

I have to admit, this statement is interesting, “You also forget The Clinton/New Liberal direction, and the tendency of Democrats of the time to follow the direction of the Republicans for the sake of winning more elections.”

Does this mean that you are willing to give the successes of Clinton over to the Republican Party and not claim his legacy as that of a true Democrat? If not, it seems to be a very convienant argument to trot out whenever you have nothing better with which to defend your position.

As to deregulation, is it a Republican idea? Absolutely! You want to think about what wouldn’t have happened without it? Cable companies couldn’t offer broadband service, since they would be regulated to just provide television channels on their wires. We would see broadband penetration rates about a third of where they are now. We would see rates tied to usage in much of the way Europe is now.


Now the only deregulation that I have seen cited as bad in this post, is allowing commercial and investment banking lines to be blurred. The bill that allowed for this was signed into law by, dah ta ta da… President Clinton. But if Clinton is now a Republican, you can take some solace since it was passed under a party line vote with nearly all Democrats voting against. However, that might have had something to do with the fact that they received far more contributions from the investment banking houses and insurance companies (those companies most likely to lose business after the bill passed) than the Republicans did.

Does deregulation mean no laws? No, business still must behave in an open honest fashion in accordance with the laws. If they are public companies, then they have to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley. To try to make the argument that deregulation is the cause of problems like Enron is like trying to say that the Cubs can’t play in a world series because a Billy Goat Sianis said they couldn’t in 1945. It’ll hold ground with lots of people if you repeat it often enough. But if you look at it rationally, you will realize thta correlation does not imply causation.

Posted by: Rob at March 26, 2006 12:09 PM
Comment #136058

Rob-
Kindly keep your focus on the matter at hand. I acknowledge that Clinton wouldn’t have likely done either thing without the presence of a Republican congress. But it is irrelevant here. What would be relevant to point out is Clinton’s cooperation in deregulation, but you see, I didn’t agree with him doing that.

I would also point out to you that this was a congress deeply adversarial to the president. Do you believe that these people would pass laws tightening regulation on corporate finance? Do you believe they would vote more appropriations to support any move Clinton made to expand the SEC and its reach?

Clinton was a compromiser, to the point where it was once said of him that he would give away the loaf in order to keep the slice. He did, in many ways, act the Republican, at least if you defined a centrist with conservative economic policies as such.

That said, what he was compromising with was a far right congress that wasted no time in catering to corporate special interests. Enron is not the entire problem, but its symptomatic of it. Enron did not depend entirely on deregulation, but the actions that produced the scandal and the subsequent catastrophic slump in wealth as other businesses finances came under scrutiny, would have been blatantly illegal, and therefore less attractive to those involved. The accountants could not have used the loose standards in their report to the stockholders.

The deal with the stockbrokers was that it was in their interests and the interests of their client to dump the stock if the fundamentals were bad. For the bankers, it was in their interest not to send good money after bad if it became apparent that their investments were not bearing fruit. But put those two companies together, and you have an inherent conflict of interest. Stockbrokers can’t drop the stock, because that would endanger repayment of the loans, hurting the company. Bankers can’t stop loaning money to them, because that will drop the stock’s value. Of such things, economic collapses are made: neither side can admit the truth without bringing the fun to an end. Where they separate companies, they could say screw you to Enron and to each other. But as part of the same company, they have no such choice.

It all comes down to whether you want the market to operate in response to reality or fiction. Inevitably, the second choice just makes things harder and more uncertain in the long term.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 27, 2006 10:16 AM
Comment #136063

Stephen,

Your points to me are muddled and defensive.

Deregulation was not the root cause of the Enron debacle. Fraud was. The job of detecting and prosecuting fraud is a task that falls to the administrative branch. As to more appropriations. The SEC is funded by a tax on stock transactions. In 1996, this tax was pegged at 1/300th of 1%. By 2000, the receipts at out paced OMB estimates by 600%. The SEC had more than enough money to operate effectively at the time the shenanigans were going on at Enron.

Your scenario about the banker and the stock broker being in collusion to prop up Enron’s value makes sense in theory. However, I can’t find anything to support it. Can you point me to a link?

I did find an interesting tidbit though, Citibank was Enron’s largest creditor, and at the time of the crash was headed by Robert Rubin who made a plea for the govenment to bail out Enron. Funny how that hasn’t come up in the blue columns. I guess it’s only important to take on potential government abuse if it comes from Republican’s, huh?

Another interesting point, you seem to contradict yourself over and over agian, regarding deregulation and competition. You are all in favor of the latter unless deregulation is the means to ensure it. Why is that?

Posted by: Rob at March 27, 2006 11:06 AM
Comment #136067

Rob, the 2003 budget held funding for SEC enforcement to zero growth levels. That FACT seems to escape you. That was the same year Bush said he was asking the SEC to step up efforts to investigate and tighten rules.

Lack of regulations, oversight, and investigatory powers were a huge component of the Enron scandal. If the perpetrators had known they would be caught, they would not have engaged in the coverups. Sarbanes-Oxley, voted on by a number Republicans, has in fact made restatements of earnings almost double, which indicates that officers of corporations are recognizing the shell game is over, they will be caught, and therefore, participation in deceptive practices like used by Enron are no longer taking place.

Yes, crooks will find or invent new ways to defraud the public or coverup their failures, but, there is no question, it got a lot harder and raised the motivation bar twice as high, with the legislation passed. Now if Bush would just fund enforcement to the levels needed to increase oversight and investigation, even greater rewards would be realized.

Posted by: David R. Remer at March 27, 2006 11:23 AM
Comment #136095

David,

I’m not sure that we disagree. I’ve said the same thing above.

As to the funding levels of the SEC, does the SEC believe that they need more money to reach the goals outlined by the President? As I mentioned in my post above, the revenue that pays for the SEC is based on a complicated series of appropriations and revenues from a tax on stock transactions. When the law was written, the tax was set on conservative esitmates from the OMB. Those estimates have proven to be far too conservative and the revenue stream has come in at up to 6 times the revenue forecasts.

Posted by: Rob at March 27, 2006 1:05 PM
Comment #136189

Rob-
I think these Frontline Episodes will give you the lowdown of how deregulation contributed to this environment, and who the players were.
The Wall Street Fix
and
Bigger Than Enron

I think the problem here is that you still are thinking about this in terms of partisanship, as if telling us that some of our own were involved will make us rethink things. Well, the trick is, our people, no matter how corrupt, were not the dominant political force for most of the decade. Your folks were, and you guys made sure of it. You folks had the power, and this is how you folks used it. Some of our people erred, but then we’re already aware of that, and not so pleased with those people who did what they did. You folks have yet to really hold your leaders accountable.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 27, 2006 7:46 PM
Comment #136382

Stephen,

Thank you for the links. Unfortunately, I don’t have 2 hours right now to do the research and watch these videos, but I will try to set aside some time this week to view them.

As to my partisanship, I don’t really think that I had any choice in viewing it any other way since you framed the debate in a partisan nature from the beginning of the post. I have said repeatedly in my responses that I don’t believe that this is a political problem, but I do believe that it is a business problem. Your videos may convince me otherwise. However, until then, I will continue to think that trying to blame Enron on the Republicans is less political than blaming Willie Horton on Dukakis was. (And for the record, I wasn’t too happy with that at the time, I was a Dukakis supporter).

Now on to a couple of your statements, “Well, the trick is, our people, no matter how corrupt, were not the dominant political force for most of the decade.” First of all if by most, you mean that we held the Congress and the Senate for half the decade, I guess so. Seems an odd definition though, since your party held the White House. Does that mean that the Democrats were the dominant party for the majority of the 80’s? Second of all, I don’t think either party was especially corrupt under Enron. I think that they may have been some individual politicians that were, but I think that for the most part, it was a big problem caused by Enron not the government.

As to this one, “Some of our people erred, but then we’re already aware of that, and not so pleased with those people who did what they did. You folks have yet to really hold your leaders accountable.” So, exactly how did you folks deal with Rubin? Clinton? Others that you are not so happy with? Both of our parties stepped up big with Sarbanes-Oxley. You seem to want to discount the impact of such a monumntal bill.

I’m arguing with you not because you sought to shine a light on the Enron scandel, but because your motivation appears to be to make political hay out of it. There have been no shortage of actions taken by members of both parties to make Enron executives account for their actions and to prevent future incidents. Yet, you want to pretend that none of this has occured and rile up a 5 year old issue that you can make the Republican’s scapegoats for. This my friend is Willie Hortonism at its best.

Posted by: Rob at March 28, 2006 2:07 PM
Comment #136477

Rob-
I don’t imagine there’s much we can do with Clinton and Rubin, and others like them. My feeling is that this generation of lawmakers is on its way out. The best punishment for the politicians who were then and are now too passive before the Republicans is obsolescence, replacement by a generation of more aggressive, articulate Democrats. The balance of opinion of the Democrats has shifted away from the old establishment of the 90s.

The thing to understand about my position on matters like this, is that the dishonesty and thievery of Enron and the like personally offends me, in a way that really goes beyond partisan notions of things. And who is it that continually argued for permissive standards of business regulation and oversight? Who is it that apologizes for the system that allows Enron to occur? Who is it who was in bed with these folks until the collapse rendered the folks in that shiny glass tower politically radioactive?

You have things in reverse. I make political hay because of the offense I take at Republican’s aiding and abetting of all that was done. My rather uncomplicated equation here is that folks should either shape up on the matter, and realize that they had a job to do concerning those things, or they should pack their bags and go home. With Clinton out of office, it wasn’t like I could vote against him in the next election, but Kenny Boy’s best friend in the White House could certainly use a good talking to, along with all his friends.

Sarbanes Oxley is both too much, and not enough. It’s difficult to enforce, and its a stop gap for all kinds of other reforms and divestitures necessary to deal with the structural regulatory problems that allowed this to happen. I haven’t heard about the expensing of stock options, the recreation of the wall between finance and equities, the re-regulation of accounting and whatnot. Enforceability and compliability are important, because difficult to enforce laws become laws typically uninforced, and hard to comply with laws become rarely complied with. Regulations should work smoothly, only causing trouble when trouble is needed to occur.

As for bringing this up, as I said in my post, this is in my back yard. On my way to work, I pass by the courthouse where the trial is being held, and I see the scene of the crime standing amidst the skyline of my fair city. The legacy remains. I say we should learn from it, and not be so permissive to the corporate powers that be.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 28, 2006 8:02 PM
Comment #136622

Stephen,

To bring this thread to the close, I think that we’ll have to agree to disagree and agree to agree.

Sarbanes-Oxley is defintely onerus, but an an employee in a public company, I can tell you that officers take the criminal and civil liability exposure they have to heart. They don’t want to go to jail and they don’t want to lose their houses. Btw, Sabanes directly puts some accounting reregulation into practice, it has dire consequences for both the Corporate Accounting Committee and the Private Accountants.

I’m not sure that the wall between finance and equities ever really crumbled the way that you think it did, but you’ve piqued my interest, so I will look into it. I don’t agree with your position on stock options in all cases, but I think that there could be room for improvement.

I couldn’t agree with you more on regulations by the way, but that seems a difficult thing to do if we have as many as you seem to think we need.

Posted by: Rob at March 29, 2006 11:35 AM
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