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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 3/15/09

The Barons of Bankruptcy Strike Again

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The drive to maximize short-term stock price sent a rot throughout the economy. Auditors who were supposed to be independent, signed off on questionable accounting and bogus financial innovations for the sake of the consulting fees they got from the very companies they were auditing. Stock analysts used their buy recommendations to hype the stocks higher in exchange for the opportunity to be in the game. Campaign contributions flowed to Washington, assuring that when the public backlash occurred (which  it did), the legislative response would be half-hearted and focused on only the most obvious conflicts of interest (which it was).

The SEC watched its enforcement branch shrink with every appropriations bill.

Fifteen years on, we have a deeply entrenched corporate culture that holds that our captains of finance are entitled to vast compensation, regardless of the outcome of their management for stockholders, the company as a whole and society at large. Today, Wall Street investment bankers, acting on that entitlement, take their bailout checks to the bank and  the taxpayers to the cleaners.

If we are to avoid seeing the sorry spectacle of executives looting millions as the corporations they headed go bankrupt again, there are a few simple steps we could take to discourage it.

First, require that stock options be treated as an expense for bookkeeping purposes. No more hiding executive compensation in annual report footnotes.
Next, require that stock be held for at least six months after the option has been exercised and the stock bought, to prevent dump and run actions on the part of CEOs.

Then, give the Securities and Exchange Commission some legal and administrative muscle to go after corporate fraud. Give them the money to hire an army of forensic accountants to prosecute white collar crime. (How's THAT for a jobs program!?)

Finally, we can get rid of the idea that corporate executives are entitled to massive pay packages, regardless of the outcome of their management. They aren't that special. They are as human as you or I, subject to the same kinds of lapses in judgment, the same self-serving delusions. It's just with them, when they screw up, the world feels their pain. And they go to the bank.

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Jim Senter is a freelance writer and photographer who lives in an intentional community/farm of 350 acres near Durham, North Carolina called Potluck Farm. The farm folk work towards energy and food self sufficiency. Jim is a member of the Southern (more...)
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The Barons of Bankruptcy Strike Again

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