I had something else planned for today’s screed but after getting through the newspapers over the weekend I changed my mind. I don’t know if it’s struck you as it has me but I’m really surprised how many business stories are about willful acts of corruption and greed. One could, in fact, make the argument that much of the economic crisis in which nearly every country finds itself has at its root exactly that cause. Is there anyone left who thinks the housing bubble and mortgage crisis was an accident?
Let me give you a few examples, just from yesterday’s newspaper:
Goldman Sachs and the $580 Million Black Hole – a story of how Goldman may have negligently mismanaged a company’s sale and sold it to con men:
With Goldman Sachs on the job, the corporate takeover of Dragon Systems in an all-stock deal went terribly wrong. Goldman collected millions of dollars in fees — and the Bakers lost everything when Lernout & Hauspie was revealed to be a spectacular fraud.
Authorities around the globe are examining whether financial firms manipulated interest rates before and after the financial crisis to improve their profits and deflect scrutiny about their health.
Earlier this month, the Justice Department announced a settlement with the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline. The company had, among a host of criminal actions, helped publish falsified data in a medical journal, failed to report the dangers of a drug and used “favors” like trips to Jamaica to persuade doctors to use its medications for unapproved — and unproven — purposes on children.
The head of Germany’s football league has called on Sepp Blatter to resign over the FIFA bribery scandal. Reinhard Rauball told Germany’s Welt Online that Blatter should step down as soon as possible so that FIFA can make a fresh start.
Maybe I’m just an old hippie from a distant time, but this stuff is just wrong. Simple, right? You could explain right and wrong to a child fairly easily. So why does that go out the window when there’s “business” involved? What’s really scary to me is that no one has gone to jail for any of this stuff – companies have paid fines but no individual has been held accountable (and we all know it’s not just one person).
I’m willing to bet that no matter on which side of the political spectrum you fall we can agree that stealing, bribery, bid rigging, and selling drugs you know aren’t safe isn’t right. What we can do about it is to call it what it is – bad, maybe criminal behavior – and not stand for it. Don’t do business with people who permit individuals to behave this way. I almost wrote companies” there but corporations are legal entities, not people. It won’t get better until somebody is held accountable in a very public way and jailed. We as a society and community of business people must demonstrate that competing hard and winning are OK, but not at any cost. After all, every sport has a rulebook and certain actions will get you penalized or kicked out of the game. Why not business?
Are you as frustrated as I am?