Friday, 27 November 2009

The world's most outrageous CEOs

The media loves to makes lists – the richest people in the world, the biggest companies in the world and so on. Forbes has compiled a rather unusual list – the 10 most outrageous CEOs of 2009.

Bernie Madoff would have been a slam dunk for the winner – but his place in the sun was last year – so he’s disqualified.

This year’s list is full of people who have been charged or indicted of fraud. Robert Moran sentenced for tax fraud at No 10, David Rubin indicted for fraud at No 9, Allen Stanford accused of misappropriation at No 8, Danny Pang accused of running a Ponzi Scheme at No 7, Thomas Peters on trial for fraud at No 5, Ramalinga Raju, in jail at No 4 and Raj Rajaratnam charged with insider trading at No 3.

Sandwiched between them are Ed Libby of AIG at No 5, for the retention bonuses he decided to pay the executives of the financial products divisions who brought ruin to the company in the first place and John Thain of Merill Lynch at No 3 who pushed through bonuses before the takeover by Bank of America.

But standing at the pinnacle is Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs – by any standards a superb CEO of a brilliant company. He should be at the top of the most outstanding business leaders in the world. And yet here he is at the top of Forbes’ “outrageous gallery” sharing the stage with some of the worst corporate fraudsters. His famous joke to the Sunday Times that bankers like himself were doing God’s work, must have propelled him to the winner's post.

Just goes to show that however brilliant you may be, however successful your company may be, you will be tried at the altar of public opinion. All the millions cannot buy you respect. Character and grace are still priceless. They cannot be achieved by just business success.

For more humbler mortals like me, who may not reach such lofty heights there is still a lesson to be learnt. For every act I do, however humble a job, it would be prudent to ask the question - if what I did was splashed on the front page of the newspapers, will I be lauded; or will I be crucified ?

13 comments:

  1. Ramesh - hope you are not turning socialist on me now. The rating is stupid to include Blankfein in it. Under the current rules, without breaking laws or violating ethical norms, if a CEO has made fabulous profits for his company (and in the process the company chooses to pay him OUT OF PROFITS) what the hell is wrong with that. It is the capitalist system at its best. If you dont like it, hold your nose. But lets not chastise him for making the best deal for his shareholders. He is absolutely right - he is a trustee charged with an important institution. And he has generated returns. Come on guys.

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  2. kiwibloke27/11/09

    well said Ravi. Not sure why Blankfein was included in this list of cheats. Did he rob the bank, create a ponzi, embezzle shareholders funds - the unequivocal answer is no. His only crime was to make a profit and reward the people who helped him make the profit.

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  3. @Dada & kiwi - No I'm not turining a socialist. The Forbes list was not a list of cheats. It was a list of the "most outrageous CEOs". Public opinion and perception are important in a democratic society which is where capitalism can flourish. And this is what big business seems to fail to really grasp. Mere business success alone is not good enough. Businesses also have to be seen to be doing the right thing, however nebulous the concept might be. Contrast companies like Google or GE - they are rarely pilloried for their success. On the other hand, the likes of Exxon and Walmart constantly have to battle public opinion. I believe you cannot have long term success going against public opinion. I submit that this is where Goldman Sachs fails.

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  4. Well said ... what would the financial Jesus do .. if he had a choice to make ....and like you rightly said ... the public opinion definitely counts ...a lot of dirt gets dug up once you are no longer in the list of most liked CEO's ..very well composed.

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  5. i wish there were two sections in your comments box, the CEOs section and the others section. I feel completely out of place in this section largely occupied by the former category.

    fuelled by the discussions above, i checked out the dictionary meaning for outrageous...some relevant definitions:

    1. Being well beyond the bounds of good taste: outrageous
    2. Having no regard for morality.
    3. Extremely unusual or unconventional; extraordinary:
    4. Being beyond all reason extravagant or immoderate

    But for right or wrong reasons, most people who have been branded as outrageous are people who have done financial frauds - maybe that could have been avoided -
    Rupert Murdoch challenge to google sounds outrageous for a conventionalist. what Angela Merkel attemped to do to GM is outrageous to a democratic.

    I think forbes could have done a better job in compiling this to suit to the header or changed the header to top financial defrauders and probably dropped blankfien out and reserved him for his most appropriate category - Outrageous!!

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  6. @blogueur - Thanks. What would the financial Jesus do ? Great question. I wonder .....

    @Sandhya - Hey Hey - your comments are usually one of the most incisive, well considered and articulated. Just look at this one. Better than my post.

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  7. This was an engrossing read. Thanks for this blog, Ramesh! and aptly supported by very relevant comments. I liked last sentence of the post immensely.

    Sometimes, I wonder that an act done with the best intent in the universe catches media's eyes (or public perception) for all the wrong reasons and then comes out this kind of listing when one tends to think how can one build an enduring public opinion. Very strange at times!

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  8. @VA - Thanks. Yes, there are some great comments in all posts. There's a blogger inside every one of us !! Yes managing public opinion is a great art - very difficult to predict how the mood will change, but surely you can avoid making statements like bankers are doing God's qwork, like Blankfein said.

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  9. Ramesh - Blankfein should get a prize for being most short-sighted. Largely as a result of the visible bonuses, the Senate Financial Services Committee placed the market and monetary policy divisions of the Federal Reserve under the oversight of the General Accounting Office. Which means, if ever another bank wants to take emergency financing from the Fed (which happens all the time) this will become open to Congressional scrutiny, and matter of public record, and will immeasurably damage the reputation of the bank.

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  10. I would like to vote your posts on Indiblogger, but I couldn't find them on the list of IndiVine. Do you submit them there?
    Great post!

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  11. @Dada - Yes - I think Blankfein is trying his best to win the battle and lose the war. They are going to get crucified with legislation in the future.

    @Dave - Thanks a lot. I registered with Indiblogger, but don't actively follow or look at the rank - in fact I don't even know how its done !

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  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  13. After you post an article on your blog, sign in to Indiblogger, go to IndiVine. On the upright corner, click on "Submit Post", fill in the columns, then you will see your article on the list of "Latest".
    In our family, Dave's dad is a good photographer, but we take photos at random. Thank you for your review.

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