Last week I launched a multi-part series on Celebrity CEO’s focusing on where some of the former high flyers of yesteryear from the dot.com era are today.
It has been an interesting exercise to say the least that has, with my most recent assessment of the performance of former Nortel CEO John Roth, rankled more than few peoples’ feathers.
The following is my response to one such individual who made the comment “How would anybody not in possession of all the facts possibly answer that question?” regarding my query relating to Roth’s ultimate responsibility (and liability) for the collapse of the once mighty telecom company he had headed.
Let’s start with simple reasoning . . . is it feasible that a CEO and CFO having access to their company’s financial information and being in tune with the then current business climate to the point of providing long-term assurances of stability and even growth when the markets and pundits were saying otherwise, could be so wrong? And as the Roth article asks, if they were indeed innocently off the mark should such incompetence bordering on negligence be simply ignored without consequences?
After all, if a doctor botches an operation is he or she not held liable? What about an airline company when there is a crash?
Putting aside for the moment the fact that Dunn, who was CFO under Roth and was promoted to CEO after Roth departed, was in fact charged by the RCMP (along with two other now former Nortel execs) for fraud – which doesn’t exactly instil confidence in the incompetence option, what are we to think?
To some in the realms of the legal profession, our views and opinions should be held within the context of the age old assertion that such dealings at the executive level are far too complex for the common man to grasp and therefore any commentary outside of the framework of obfuscating legalese relating to litigation labels any suggestion of corruption or malfeasance as being uninformed musings or worse yet, an exercise in scapegoat expediency?
Those who advocate on behalf of former Enron exec Jeffrey Skilling, whose bellowing claims of injustice have them calling for a new trial as if a mea culpa admission based on an over-enthusiastic belief in the company’s fortunes somehow justifies one’s decisions and actions, doesn’t cut the proverbial mustard.
Or to put it another way . . . the check is not in the mail and the government is not here to help you.
Here is the link to the original article on John Roth: CELEBRITY CEO SERIES: PLAUSIBLE DENIABILITY – JOHN ROTH’S SHINOLA FACTOR