The Face of Corporate Corruption
I watched “The Insider” last night, which is about Jeff Wigand the first Tobacco industry research executive from Brown & Williamson, B&W, to come forward with the truth about the purpose of nicotine in cigarettes. Not sure why I just now watched this movie that was made in 1999, probably because I have never really had any connection with smoking and would steer clear of 157-minute movies. But the movie was captivating and it has caused me to reflect upon that blemish on Corporate America with the many failures in recent years. I also realize that I had a personal connection to this scandal that I was not even aware of.
The timeline is important with respect to my connection. Take a quick look at the timeline of events.
My connection occurred because I was HP’s technical consultant helping B&W in Louisville with their UNIX System Admin for a contract that called for a couple days a month over a period of 6 months in 1994. I also got involved with some Lab Automation consulting because of my prior HP Analytical experience. This connection is another story, but at the time I had many questions about the type of research taking place in the B&W labs and the strange political atmosphere that I sensed at the time now makes sense.
The point I want to make in this post is what struck me about the way America handled this scandal just a decade ago. It seems that it may have been a transition from corporate corruption to executive corruption. At the root of the evil that underlies corruption are typically people. But it seems to me that prior to the 90’s corruption was more attributed and defended by the corporation. The Tobacco industry corruption still defended at the corporate level, but CEO’s started to take the hit. For example B&W’s CEO, Thomas Sandefur, may have been charged with perjury if he had not died in 1996. Enron’s Ken Lay took a legal hit, hmmm, he also died soon there after. I wonder how some of the “Culprits of the Financial Collapse” such as Lehman Brother’s, Richard Fuld, will end up.