||Issue No. 196||19 September 2003|
A Secret Country
Interview: Crowded Lives
Activists: Life With Brian
Industrial: National Focus
Unions: If These Walls Could Talk
Economics: Beating the Bastards
Media: Three Corners
History: The Brisbane Line
Trade: The Dumping Problem
Review: Frankie's Way
The Locker Room
How do we know the universe is infinite? Because it has to contain the ignorance of the board of the New York Stock Exchange and the greed of its chairman, Richard A. Grasso.
This week union and state pension funds in the United States decided to pull the plug on Grasso, who had set levels for corporate excess that even made Dick Cheney blush.
In the wake of the collapse of Arthur Anderson and Worldcom - events that threw millions in the richest country in the world into poverty - a bold new era of corporate governance was forecast, with the New York Stock Exchange set to lead the way in accountability, transparency and restraint.
This sort of crazy talk often emanates from the business media whenever the latest gorging is discovered. Of course their sociopathic ramblings mean jack. They are about as useful as Worldcom scrip, but not as much as the paper it is written on, when it comes to unravelling the tangled web that is the machinations of the modern market.
The truly amusing aspect to the Grasso fiasco (That is, unless your life savings were invested in WorldCom) is that the oracles of Wall Street act with such dignified horror when one of their pin up boys gets caught with the snout in the trough.
Grasso was into the New York Stock Exchange to the tune of US$140 million. Luckily it was not a performance-based remuneration as news of Mr. Grasso's compensation package came on the heels of several recent high-profile acts of common and large-scale theft, which in stock market parlance is known as a scandal.
In a mild understatement some industry leaders and politicians have said revelations of his exorbitant pay package eroded investor confidence in how the stock market is run. It has also demolished belief in god, human dignity and any other view of the US Business Community than that they are anything but a self-serving bunch of power-mad plutocrats.
This is in keeping with the stock market's belief that the scandal is not so much a crime, as a foolishness in getting caught.
To put it in perspective it would take an army of 1000 junkies over a year working day and night to steal the equivalent sum through housebreaking. If a thousand households a night were being broken into we might call it a crime wave. But when someone as unproductive and leechlike as Grasso pockets his pay we call it poor corporate governance. Maybe it's related to where the protagonist went to school.
Of course it is important in a democracy to know how the world's most powerful stock market is run, as it will help the punter to understand why the stock market is more important than democracy. In fact an understanding of the stock market will help explain why it is more important than the environment, labour standards or three fifths of the world's population being able to access clean drinking water.
Perhaps it is only fair that Mr Grasso is considered to be 4666.67 times more valuable to the US economy than a high school teacher, paramedic or police officer. After all, these people haven't showed any of the initiative shown by our Tool Of The Week. They, instead, devote their labour to helping their fellow human beings and creating a better world.
They must be deluded.
Grasso finally resigned last Wednesday, about five years too late.
As Sean Harrigan, Chairman of the Californian Public Employees Retirement Fund, says: "Today we're trying to pull the pig away from the trough and the next step is to figure out who filled up the trough."
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