Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Justice for Ebbers? For the rest of us?

Mikaela says:
Former CEO of WorldCom Bernard Ebbers was just sentenced to 25 years in prison for overseeing the largest corporate accounting fraud in U.S. history.

My very first reaction to this news was happy incredulousness. They really nailed him? No way! Right on. Justice! Corporate accountability... how rare!

Having worked at one of these loosey-goosey telecom companies in Seattle that went through a little bankruptcy (compared to WorldCom's titanic bankruptcy), my perception is that this kind of fraudulent accounting is everywhere. At all levels, from the tiniest of companies to the biggest and all the auditors inbetween. The banks know. The investigators know.

For this man to lose the rest of his life (he's 63 now, and even with good behavior, he's behind bars until he's 85) for doing what everyone winks and nudges about ... I don't know. If it were a different kind of case, we'd be talking about being cautious not to engender martyrs that can mobilize a radical uprising. But corporate guys? Do they care that this guy is taking the rap for what they all do? I doubt it. Think this will ripple through corporate America? Maybe. Maybe they'll be more careful to hide their practices.

But surprise, surprise. It isn't about one guy or one company or one economic sector. It's ... ready for it? ... the system. Ah, the system.

Now what are we going to do about it? Besides sending one arrogant white guy to jail?