Add in the increased public and media scrutiny, the open-season license issued to tort lawyers to troll through corporate files (and convenient memories), the expanding workload and downhold pressure on compensation and you have at least three early results;
- Sarbanes-Oxley is quickly becoming the Lawyer's Full Employment Act;
- Competent board candidates are making themselves scarce;
- With the impressive synchronicity of the Law of Unintended Consequences, boards are showing early symptoms of the Japanese disease -- risk-aversion, blame-spreading and fanny-covering.
We've seen this movie before, of course. After the malefactions of the Watergate crowd -- which, in like fashion, were seen as systemic failures by some, individual aberrations by others -- the reformers decided to clean up the political process once and for all. What the reformers devised and then bequeathed to us is what is generally known today as the campaign finance mess. Twenty-eight years later and we're still digging our way out of the hole dug by Watergate reformers. Beware the swinging pendulum.
Editor-in-Chief Al Chambers asks whether "the worst is behind us" or there's "more scandal and uncertainty to come." It's difficult to imagine more excess than Ebbers at Worldcom, more rapacity than Kozlowski at Tyco, more self-aggrandizement than Rigas at Adelphia, more client greasing than the accountants at Arthur Anderson, more professional flexibility than the lawyers at Vinson & Elkins. But more scandal and uncertainty to come? I would think that the chances are roughly one hundred percent. The Whistleblower-Tort lawyer-Media Industrial Complex is in full-forward mode. And it's probably not all bad.
The roots of the capitalist system should be watered every generation or so with the blood of capitalists. My only hope at this point is that the accounting of GE stands up. If GE and the Jack Welch Way go down, they may take all the scaffolding with them. And that's all bad.