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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Saturday, July 22, 2006

See You Next Month

I may post again today, but really, I've got to pack.

Off on a no-Internet vacation through the end of the month.


First Charges Brought in Stock Option Scandal

Marketplace Radio reports that a company called Brocade Communications is the first to be charged in the latest business ethics scandal wave--back-dating stock options to inflate their gain. The first of many, I suspect. The backdating of stock options is apparently rampant, as I've written in the past. You pass a Sarbanes-Oxley and the crooks figure out something new.

Still, I continue to be optimistic, sometimes in spite of much evidence to the contrary, that human beings are basically wired to do the right thing, and will rise to those expectations eventually. If it weren't for my optimism, I never would have written an award-winning book on how ethics can drive business success.

Media's Coverage Alters Corporate and Government Ethics Issues

Remember the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle from high school physics? It's the idea that the act of observing something can alter the organisms or events being observed.

A fascinating article by Thomas Kostigen on Dow Jones MarketWatch looks at how media coverage changes the behavior of governments and corporations, specifically dealing with ethical concerns. The article cites the work of Luigi Zingales, professor of entrepreneurship and finance at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business--who found that businesses will often improve their behavior when the media spotlight shines on them.

As an example, when the media jumped on the excessive-compensation reportage regarding the salary of former New York Stock Exchange chairman Richard Grasso, he lost his job.

However, government is a different matter, at least these days. Kostigan sees the media, in its coverage of both corporate and government issues, as irresponsibly unwilling to go deep, late in its reportage, and too eager to sail in the perceived political wind:

Too often the media plays patsy and is meek in the face of challenge, as was the case with the reporting on the events leading up to the war in Iraq. Or it trails intrepid government inquisitors such as Elliott Spitzer. Or it gets the story wrong -- weapons of mass destruction, President Bush's National Guard record. Or lies about it -- Jayson Blair, Jack Kelley

On the business front, the media lagged inquiry on just about every corporate scandal in recent memory; its business is to break news, not merely report it.

As someone who writes regularly about ethics and media, I have to agree with him, at least as far as the mainstream press goes. Most important stories these days are broken by the underground press, or by people like Greg Palast who is an American working for British journalism companies that are less afraid to go after the truth.

I'm still hoping that the Business Ethics Pledge will help change that unwillingness to question. Questioning--questioning everything, and digging deeper--is what journalism should be about.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Yet Another Way Spammers are Killing the Internet

Yeech! I just signed on to approve one comment and found 65 in my box. 63 were spam and two were legit. I marked them all as spam and hopefully won't ever see another subject line of "buy Valium." What do these people think they're going to accomplish by spamming a blog that moderates posts?

If you suddenly find that I'm no longer accepting comments, it'll be because I'll have lost patience with these cretins. I wish I could force them to read the section of my book Grassroots Marketing: Getting Noticed in a Noisy World called "Spam: The Newbies' Natural Mistake."

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Is the Big Dig Fatality Related to Corruption?

Here in Massachusetts, the failure of the massive road project in central Boston known as the Big Dig has been front-page news for about a week. A recently-married motorist was killed when a tunnel ceiling collapsed on her car; her husband managed to crawl out a window and escape.

To his credit, Republican Governor Mitt Romney cut short an out-of-town trip, stepped in, assumed (long-overdue) control over the project, and began immediate inspections--inspections that revealed thousands of glaring safety errors in many parts of the project.

Throughout its decades-long construction, the Big Dig has been plagued by cost overruns, corruption, allegations that inferior materials were used, and other problems. And almost as soon as the tunnels under Boston Harbor were opened (not that long ago), they began to leak. We already knew it was a boondoggle. Now it seems that both the design and engineering were deeply flawed and the largest/most expensive single road project in US history has been a failure.

One has to question whether proper government oversight, complete with thorough inspections at every step of the way, would have shown the shoddy materials and flawed engineering without someone having to die.

Meanwhile, here's another example that corruption has human costs.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Waht Really Goes On in the House Appropriations Committee?

Want to learn about corruption and influence-peddling on the House Appropriations Committee--one of the very most powerful committees on the whole of Capitol Hill?

David Sirota has quite a bit to say on the subject, in a wide-ranging article covering everything from Jack Abramoff to Mad Cow Disease. Highly recommended.

Robert Ringer: Know How Your Emotions Affect Others' Perception of You

My good friend and colleague Bob Burg, author of Winning Without Intimidation, recommended Robert ringer's newsletter. I was surprised, since Ringer is best known as the author of Winning Through Intimidation.

But on Bob's recommendation, I went in with an open mind. And so far, I'm impressed.

Visit his most recent newsletter and scroll down to "Letting Go of Your Pacifier." He tells people to get a grip, not to be seen as overwrought, and remember that first of all, things that seem like life-and-death matters often turn out not to be so, and second, that often, we grow and learn from the crises and not just the opportunities. Oh yes, and if you're the kind of person who gets so caught up in, say, a major sports event that you start throwing things at your TV, he tells you to get a life. (He'd probably say the same about my addiction to politics.)

If You Like "Democracy Now"

You may also like this site: Easily scannable word and natinal headlines and articles from a progressive-politics viewpoint.

h, and if you're not familiar with Democracy Now, this hard-hitting and highly ethical one-hour news program airs five days a week and has broken story after story. The show has an excellent website, too.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

With Enron, Justice Delayed Really Was Justice Denied

It doesn't seem fair--all these years before the trial, Lay and Skilling found guilty...and then, because the verdict was under appeal, Lay's record is apparently to be cleared (at least in the legal system) just because he happened to drop dead.

The Houston Chronicle reports that not only will his conviction be vacated, but the government's efforts to recapture $43 million of ill-gotten gains are likely to be stymied.

Cynic that I am I have to wonder if that was really Ken Lay's corpse; it just seems a little too convenient. I hope there's confirmation via DNA testing.

I am not a vengeful person--but I am galled that not only did this criminal continue to live high on the hog but he escaped justice in the end--while thousands harmed by his greed were not so fortunate. Even as late as his trial, according to a widely reported news story,

Lay also defended his extravagant lifestyle, including a $200,000 yacht for wife Linda’s birthday party, despite $100 million in personal debt and saying “it was difficult to turn off that lifestyle like a spigot.”

I do take some comfort in knowing that death will not save his reputation, even if it protects the fortune of his estate (which, according t some rumors, is still a large fortune--while other sources say he was heavily in debt and there isn't anything left).

Meanwhile, GWB's appearance on Larry King Live puts to rest any question about the relationship between the president and Lay--a relationship that the White House tried to minimize earlier in the week:

KING: Because I mean you knew it pretty well from Texas, right? BUSH: Pretty well, pretty well. I've known him -- I got to know him. People don't believe this but he actually supported Ann Richardson in the '94 campaign...Yes, he's a good guy and so what I did -- then did was we had a business council and I kept him on as the chairman of the business council and, you know, got to know him and got to see him in action. One of the things I respected him for was he was such a contributor to Houston's civil society. He was a generous person. I'm disappointed that, you know, that there was -- betrayed the trust of shareholders.

In that same transcript, Lay himself offers this rather telling bit:

We were competing with the very best and biggest companies in the world for the best talent and they loved working at Enron just like I did. But I grieve for all that they've lost and we, I mean even having lost what we've lost, I mean we are so much better off. My family is so much better off than most of them and it just, it pains me each and every day of my life.

The transcript is worth reading. While superficial as TV so often is, it gets in some very interesting quotes from a wide range of sources: Lay family friends (including the former mayor of Houston, who lauded Lay for his charitable work), employees who were cheated out of their retirement, and Skilling's lawyer, who I found incredible unctuous.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Ann Coulter, Plagiarist?

Looks like famous hatemonger Ann Coulter doesn't always write her own stuff. A very informative article in the New York Post (owned by Rupert Murdoch, last time I checked, and not exactly a bastion of liberalism) documents at least three instances of cribbing in her latest book, "Godless," and numerous more instances in her columns.

She even cribbed a section from one of her frequent targets: Planned Parenthood:

One 25-word passage from the "Godless" chapter titled "The Holiest Sacrament: Abortion" appears to have been lifted nearly word for word from Planned Parenthood literature published at least 18 months before Coulter's 281-page book was released.

And this woman is supposed to be telling us about morality? Yuck on her politics, and yuck on her ethics.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Ken Lay's Death

The poster boy for crooked business, Enron's Kenneth "Kenny Boy" Lay, died today, just a few weeks after he was found guilty in the massive fraud/ethics case.

Already, the White House is denying that there was a genuine friendship (sound file) between Lay and George W. Bush. But Bush was a long-time high-end fundraiser for GWB, and it was in fact GWB who started calling him "Kenny Boy." So the denials don't have a lot of credibility.

But the real question is not whether Lay and Bush were close personal friends; the real issue is what kind of future business climate can we create together, where future Enron scandals simply don't gain any traction.

If you'd like to help create that climate, I invite you to sign the Business Ethics Pledge.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

How Many More Smoking Guns do We Need? Bush Initiated Plame Leak

Bush also told federal prosecutors during his June 24, 2004, interview in the Oval Office that he had directed Cheney, as part of that broader effort, to disclose highly classified intelligence information that would not only defend his administration but also discredit Wilson, the sources said.

There it is--right from the pages of the National Journal. The government has known for a year and a week that GWB directed Cheney to embarrass Wilson by illegally disclosing classified information. Cheney chose to carry out this directive, through the help of Scooter Libby and probably Karl Rove, by leaking Plame's CIA status to friendly reporters. A total violation of the law, on top of hundreds of other violations.

Will someone please tell me why both parties aren't setting up impeachment hearings? Some independent voices have been calling for impeachment for years--if you'd like to join them, click here. GWB and Cheney have repeatedly engaged in criminal activity. When will enough be enough?

Sunday, July 02, 2006

"Power Grab" by Elizabeth Drew

An excellent article describing the Bush Administration's various major usurpations of power. Long but worth the read. From last week's New York Review of Books.