Principled Profit: The Good Business Blog

Musings on the world-wide movement for ethical business, frugal marketing, and how honesty, integrity, and quality combine with deep relationship building to create business success. By the originator of the Ethical Business Pledge campaign and award-winning author of Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First and five other books

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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Human Cost of Corruption

As Dennis Kozlowski, former Tyco CEO, heads off to a well-deserved extended "rest" in the slammer, and news reports show that a billion dollars was stolen from the Iraqi people in the form of crooked contracts, it's time to remind ourselves that corporate theft is not a victimless crime.

Real people--innocent people--get hurt. Like the unfortunate former Enron employees whose pensions were wiped out.

In the case of the Iraq story, people will die because a well-organized fraud ring left soldiers to fend off attacks in decrepit armored cars that can't even resist an ordinary bullet. In New Orleans, people died because a cronyistic corrupt appointment left someone in charge whose previous experience had nothing to do with disaster planning, and because a legalized theft of the money--and the National Guard personnel--that should have been going to repair and protect the levees was siphoned off into a certain unjustified and very expensive war. Yes, add to the nearly 2000 US dead and tens of thousands of Iraqis killed in an empty chase of WMDs, hundreds of New Orleaneans whose lives could have been saved if the money hadn't been stolen from flood control, and if the Guard were at home where they belong, helping in a domestic crisis.

Oh, and speaking of cronyistic corrupt appointments, did you see what happened when the Bush administration tried to name a veterinarian as acting Director of the FDA's Office of Women's Health? They backed off in three days, and then denied they ever did such a thing. This is to replace the principled Dr. Susan Woods, who resigned because she could no longer publicly represent an agency that was stonewalling on a reproductive freedom issue. At least the new appointee, Theresa A. Toigo, has a 20-year background at the FDA and knows health issues. Good luck, Theresa--you'll need it.

Back to Mr. Kozlowski: My question to you and your ilk: was it worth it? Were those ill-gotten gains that you enjoyed for a few years worth utterly destroying your company, your reputation and for the next 8 to 30 years, your own personal freedom? You were already one of the highest-paid executives in history. Did you really need to plunder beyond that? Couldn't you have still afforded a $6000 shower curtain, if that's how you wanted to waste your money?

In spite of these clowns, I still believe that nice guys don't finish last, and that in the long term, business success means building a company (or a government) based on ethics and on building real long-term relationships created with honesty, integrity, and quality. Please visit my website if you'd like to know more.


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