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TinotopiaLog → Pundit Finance Reform (29 Jan 2002)
Tuesday 29 January 2002

Pundit Finance Reform

You can hardly read anything these days without hearing how some TV or print commentator has been taking large amounts of money from Enron over the past few years.

The assumption, like with similar bribes — let’s be honest here, for a moment, campaign contribution and the like are bribes — to politicians, is that the commentators will favor Enron in their opinions, and fail to note problems with the company as they otherwise would. Having bought off all criticism, the company can more or less do whatever it likes, the rest of the world be damned.

This appears to be what Enron did; but the rest of the world is chugging along quite nicely, while Enron is in its death throes.

That’s not my point, though. My point is this. The management of Enron fucked up, in a big way. That particular part of the story has been, to put it mildly, well-covered. We’re never going to find out the true story, though, because of fear on the part of journalists and politicians. I doubt that the management of Enron got together, one day, and decided to run the company into the ground; instead, they made decisions to take certain business risks, and to exploit certain hidden opportunities (“loopholes”) in U.S. corporate law in order to make the company (and themselves) stronger and richer. And they failed. Their risks did not pay off. This happens some times.

And we — by that I mean American culture, and particularly American business culture — can learn from that. This set of risks, this strategy in this situation by Enron has been proven to not work as spectacularly well as the architects of that strategy (presumably) hoped it would. So for God’s sake, let’s not try that particular approach in those particular circumstances, ever again.

We’re never going to learn that, though; instead, both the government and the press are going to throw the book at the Enronites. You can’t write a thoughtful column or hold a thoughtful hearing on what actually happened, because it would immediately be assumed that you were in Enron’s secret employ.

And that’s today’s Lesson In Bribery, boys and girls: after it becomes known that you’ve paid people off, you won’t be able to get a fair shake from anyone, whether you’ve bribed them or not, because support of or neutrality toward you will be universally suspect.

Posted by tino at 10:53 29.01.02
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