The Corrupt Corporate Norm

I hate to distract you from the media's 24/7 saturation coverage of the latest Michael Jackson saga, but have you noticed that the corporate crime spree -- bilking us of billions of dollars -- continues to roar like an out-of-control wildfire, devouring industry after industry?

It seems like only yesterday that Wall Street, Washington, and the media were insisting that the flaming collapse of Enron, Arthur Anderson, WorldCom and those other high-profile "bad boys" was nothing but an extraordinary exception to "the norm" of corporate America's high ethical standards. But, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said of a dinner guest, "The louder he talked of his honour, the faster we counted our spoons."

Today, the media barons bury the stories of corporate finagling, but hardly a week goes by without another major corporation or entire industry being caught in a widespread flare-up of corruption, self-dealing, fraud, or other thievery -- ripping-off small investors, looting pension funds, scamming taxpayers, and generally taking care of Number One.

Take a recent two-day period, for example, in which three wildfires of corruption burst out. Lord Conrad Black, a right-wing British press baron who controls the Chicago Sun-Times and other media holdings, was found to be illegally siphoning millions of corporate dollars into his own pockets.

Coincidentally, Lord Black's accounting firm, KPMG, also was squirming at this same time in front of a U. S. Senate committee, for it has been caught reaping millions in fees for sleazy tax shelters it designed to help its rich clients escape paying their taxes. Then, on the same day, an undercover FBI sting found that some of Wall Street's biggest banks, including J. P. Morgan, have been rigging currency trades and pocketing kickbacks while bilking small investors.

It's time to admit that the corrupt "exceptions" have become the corporate norm, and that nothing will change without fundamental reforms in the entire corporate system.

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