The Guardian August 7, 2002


Editorial:

Greed and corruption Inc.

If anyone thought that greed and corruption were confined to the United 
States, the revelations that are tumbling out of the Federal Court hearing 
into One-Tel and the Royal Commission into HIH Insurance should dispel 
it.

A bewildering network of corrupt company directors and interlocking 
companies has already been revealed. Added to that, is the deregulation so 
conveniently provided by governments. It has provided the perfect scenario 
and the means by which company directors have feathered their own nests to 
the tune of millions of dollars. Shareholders' funds have been looted 
without the directors having the slightest twinge of conscience. Companies 
were brought crashing down. Workers were sacked with the loss of their 
entitlements.

The rapid development of technology has facilitated the process whereby 
assets are transferred between shelf companies and offshore, making it 
virtually impossible for workers and their unions, superannuation funds, or 
the small "mums and dads" investors to know the real state of affairs.

The so-called "gatekeepers"  the auditors and regulators  have also had 
their snouts in the pig's trough. They not only gave the advice and covered 
up the scandals but joined in the looting as well.

Greed and corruption have become so widespread that they are undermining 
the capitalist system as well as imposing huge losses on other businesses, 
particularly the banks which lent millions and billions of dollars of 
depositors money to these bubble enterprises. One consequence of this is to 
be seen in Argentina and Uruguay where the banks have closed their doors to 
depositors who want to withdraw their money before it all goes down the 
gurgler. The banks are giving priority to helping right-wing governments 
repay their borrowings through the International Monetary Fund and from the 
World Bank.

It is ridiculous to believe that the governments, which have created this 
situation, are capable or interested in doing what is necessary to reverse 
the calamity. So widespread is the corruption in the US that the Government 
has been forced to introduce some small control measures but nothing is 
being heard from the Australian Government. It continues to shut its eyes 
and assert that in Australia it is merely a case of some "bad apples".

The fact is that greed and corruption are an inherent part of the 
capitalist order of things. Making money is incessantly propagated as the 
most desirable occupation. This led Paul Keating when Treasurer to declare 
that the most dangerous place in the world was between a yuppie and a 
bucket of gold.

The laws make all sorts of shoddy dealings legal but this does not alter 
the fact that they are corrupt and reward greed. One commentator described 
the present situation as the "creative destruction" of capitalism.

In the United States the scandals are so widespread and involve so many of 
the top names in the business fraternity and the top companies that an 
investors' strike is taking place.

Warren Scott, a US and Australian securities lawyer writing in the 
Australian Financial Review (1/8/02) declared that "while we cannot, 
and should not, eliminate risk, failure and loss from a capitalist system, 
we should be able to expect honesty, integrity and transparency."

"Honesty" and "integrity" are not words to be found in big business 
practice and as far as "transparency" goes, let's start by uncovering all 
the agreements that have been made between governments and companies which 
are cloaked in the claim of "commercial in confidence". If these agreements 
were to be dragged into the open the stench would become so overpowering 
that a real political revolution may well be the consequence.

The role that is expected of governments by the big corporations is to act 
to save the system and keep it going for a little longer. That is what 
Howard, George Bush, Tony Blair and most other governments around the world 
will do.

While petty crime is often followed by jail sentences and refugees are 
subjected to mandatory detention it is not likely that many if any of the 
corporate criminals will see the four walls of a jail cell. Their mates in 
the political and legal system will see to that.

It is not only these politicians that have to be replaced but the system as 
well.
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