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February 11, 2008 7:27 AM Age: 9 yrs

Accountability and The Seven Year Itch

Category: Acc Commentary & Opinion, CG Commentary & Opinion, Eleanor Bloxham, AC RSS
Source:  Eleanor Bloxham

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So here we are a little over seven years after the beginning of the end of Enron and these quotes from the February 8, 2008 NY Times story -- “Creators of Credit Crisis Revel in Las Vegas” -- tell the tale of the still unfinished business of Enron.

  • “Wall Street banks played a crucial role in the… crisis…. Regulators are examining whether investment banks … hid the risks”
  • “A money manager stood up and denounced credit ratings agencies, which many investors have criticized for underestimating the risks” 

And Yogi Berra would be right: "This is like deja vu all over again."
Of course the issues like in the Enron case had been building over time.  Do some of them sound familiar to you?

  • Accounting for liabilities off balance sheet.
  • Bankers who “forgot” their fiduciary duty to customers.
  • Well compensated analysts – rating agencies, money managers and other financial analysts in the government and investment worlds – all asleep at the wheel.
  • Companies not doing their own homework,  not modeling the risks.
  • Board of directors paying out bonuses while allowing risks to build unmitigated.
  • The societal infrastructure for individuals in crisis, unable to forestall or respond to their challenges.

And this debacle like the last one also has had spill-over effects that are frightening.

  • Many innocent people have not only lost jobs and pensions but their homes, their pets (USA Today: ”Deserted Pets Also Foreclosure Victims,” January 29, 2008) and their life savings.
  • The US financial services industry is a shadow of its former self which is unlikely to recover (Financial Week: “In reversal of fortunes, Chinese banks now biggest in the world” February 4, 2008).
  • Restatements of the same old problems by the same old players with no immediate interest in learning about solutions on the horizon,  as blame is spread to everyone else (Financial Week: “Directors: Blame comp consultants for CEO pay problem, not us: A third of board members say CEO comp too high,” February 7, 2008).

So the question remains, on one’s deathbed, was the lust for profit worth harming so many?  Will this love affair with “not us / no accountability” ever end? Can’t we find some way to do ourselves a favor – and scratch this seven year itch?

 

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Eleanor Bloxham is a strategic governance and valuation authority, author and advisor, and CEO of The Value Alliance (www.thevaluealliance.com) and Corporate Governance Alliance. She welcomes your comments at ebloxham@thevaluealliance.com

Comments Copyright © 2008 The Value Alliance Company. All rights reserved

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