Jewish World Review July 12, 2002 / 3 Menachem-Av, 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Financial experts were puzzled for several months over the fact that while the country seemed to be on the way out of its mini-depression, Americans with money to invest were not buying stocks.
The American public has never looked smarter.
Who among us believes that Enron and WorldCom are the only companies who committed fraud? They're the ones that got caught. Does the tip of the iceberg mean anything to you? The public is waiting for the other shoe stores to drop. Investors know there must be hundreds of companies cooking their books. Potential investors don't want to be caught owning shares in the one that turns out to be the next Enron.
The puzzle is, what happened to honesty, decency and ethical business practices? The corporate businessmen we're seeing in court - and they're mostly men - don't look or act like the criminals we see shackled after a bank robbery, holdup or murder. Did any of them ever step back, look at themselves and what they were doing and think, "Hey, I know what's right and what's wrong. This is wrong."?
President Bush said some good, tough things Tuesday in his Wall Street speech. Corporate criminals will get more prison time. We're all for that and we'll be checking the front page of the newspaper tomorrow to see which billionaire executive caught stealing goes to prison next. We remember the promise to catch and punish Osama bin Laden 10 months ago. Both promises were easier to make than keep. Enron and WorldCom executives probably aren't going anywhere but the Bahamas to join their bank accounts.
A few years ago, IBM sent a fat envelope to stockholders with several pages of proxy forms outlining 11 issues. Included was information on how members of the board of directors advised stockholders to vote.
Here were some of the 11 issues listed:
APPROVAL OF ANNUAL INCENTIVE COMPENSATION TERMS FOR CERTAIN EXECUTIVES
There was no place on the proxy form where a stockholder could ask a question, such as, "If this proposition doesn't pass, does it mean certain executives won't do their best work because they won't be paid extra for it?"
RATIFICATION OF APPOINTMENT OF AUDITORS
AFFIRMATION OF IBM'S POLITICAL NON-PARTISANSHIP
ELIMINATION OF AWARDS OR BONUSES UPON COMPLETION OF SERVICE
VARIABLE EXECUTIVE AND OTHER COMPENSATION PLAN
STOCK PAYMENTS TO NON-EMPLOYEE DIRECTORS
The best thing about the IBM ballot was that it came with an envelope that said, NO POSTAGE NECESSARY. Board members probably thought if they covered the postage, stockholders wouldn't notice the few hundred million dollars they were giving themselves.
And keep in mind, IBM is probably one of the more honest companies.
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07/10/02 English as she is spoke