Friday, November 25, 2005
A Tale Of Two Nations
“Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.” So says the narrator in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story, “The Rich Boy”. Nowhere is it more apparent than in the United States legal system. Notice I used the term legal as opposed to judicial. The reason for that is because judicial implies justice, and justice implies fairness and equal treatment under the law. If only those implications had some basis in reality. Alas, they do not. It has no basis in the laws passed by Congress and state legislatures any more than it does in criminal proceedings. But today I wish to talk about the court system.
Earlier this week Larry Ellison, CEO of the Oracle Corporation settled a civil suit to the tune of $122,000,000. The California suit originated because Oracle stockholders were trying to get back some $900 million Ellison made by selling Oracle stock just before a bad projected earnings report was made public in 2001. What a travesty of justice.
First why is the only action being taken against Ellison in civil court not criminal court (there is a federal civil action still pending)? The man stole close to a BILLION dollars!! Now there are those who might say he made his sale without knowledge of the soon to be released earnings report. There certainly is precedent for that, both President Bush the Lesser and Senate Majority Leader William Frist made similar sales, though not for such a large amount. And they too said they had no prior knowledge of bad reports, Bush with Harken Oil, Frist with HCA. When Bush the Lesser made his sale he was on the Board of Directors of Harken Oil. Oh, I almost forgot The Lesser was also on the Audit Committee of the Board. Among other things The Audit Committee is responsible for seeing that the company’s financial records and the dealings with the outside auditors are on the up and up. They would be privy to all reports before they were made public. One more thing that bastion of integrity, Arthur Anderson, was the outside auditor. Bill Frist’s connections to HCA were even closer, his father started the company.
Now some might say men like Ellison, Bush, Frist, Kenneth Lay, etc are smarter and more prescient than most people. Again that could be the case; a recent study showed that the sages in the U.S. Senate got a 12% higher return on their investments than the national average. Maybe they are smarter than you and me, or maybe they have access to information that we don’t. Of course some of the more unscrupulous might say that does make them smarter than you and me. And a problem for corporate officers is that if they truly were smarter and more prescient how did they allow their companies to get such an unprofitable situation in the first place?
But I digress, back to Mr. Ellison. Let’s say he has to cough up another $122 million in the federal suit, by my less smart calculations that still leaves a profit of $656, 000,000 for good ol Larry, without having to spend a day in the slammer. Now as strictly a thought experiment let’s say that 656,000 of us less smart people commit armed robbery at the local liquor store and steal a thousand dollars each. Lets then say that we are caught, tried, convicted, and sentenced to prison. That would increase our prison population by over 33%. My question is this, how can we justify, or legalize, not increasing the prison population by 0.000045 of 1% for someone who stole well over half a billion? You know those guys must really be smarter than you and me.
The Bush Credo - No Sacrifice Is Too Great For Others To Make.
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