That's capitalism! You beaut!
As part of its January 1 New Year coverage, The Sydney Morning Herald devoted a whole page in its business section to what it called "Fifty stupid moments in 2002". A better headline would have been "Fifty greedy and corrupt moments". We reproduce a small selection of the 50 items listed by the SMH — lest we forget! What are friends for anyway? Self-made millionaire Martha Stewart resigned as the director of the New York Stock Exchange. Her resignation letter contained no details on how she pocketed about US$228,000 for selling 4000 ImClone shares the day before the US Food and Drug Administration rejected the firm's application to use its Erbitux drug on cancer patients. The former CEO and founder of ImClone, Sam Waksal, pleaded guilty to charges of fraud, perjury, conspiracy, securities fraud and obstruction of justice. But whether Waksal told his friends, including Martha Stewart to dump their shares has not been proven. Stewart has not been charged and denies any wrongdoing. Thieves fall out Adler reportedly invited Brad Cooper to a meeting in a North Sydney hotel to ask Cooper what he intended to tell the HIH Royal Commission the next day about short-selling HIH shares. Cooper alleged Adler offered him $500,000 to change his evidence. Cooper accepted the meal but was later accused of trying to extort $1.8 million from Adler before the Monday morning. Adler has been charged with manipulating the stockmarket and making false and misleading statements. And weren't shareholders delighted! The internal audit review of HIH's executive expenses revealed that former chief Ray Williams liked the occasional snack. These included: $2462.50 ($700 for a tip) at the Nautilus Restaurant at Port Douglas and $2197.50 ($700 tip) at Pier Restaurant. All this was in addition to the $157,796 spent on travel expenses and $38,165 spent by his wife, Rita. Other goodies included $86,442.43 spent on watches for staff. A tycoon with a bent for culture Before his indictment on tax cheating, Tyco chief Dennis Kozlowski knew how to live it up. He spent US$6000 on a shower curtain and US$15,000 for a dog umbrella stand and US$2.1 million on a 40th birthday party he threw in Sardinia for his missus. It was a tasteful affair featuring a giant cake with exploding breasts and an ice sculpture of Michelangelo's "David" dispensing vodka through an appendage minus the fig leaf. The cheque is in the mail The chief executive of Perth's New Tel, Peter Malone, told one of his shareholders that he was expecting a $750,000 exit payout. New Tel has now been placed in receivership by Optus. Who me? As the debts piled up at New Tel, Mr Malone was asked if he was the same Peter Malone who had ordered a $370,000 black Aston Martin DB7 Vantage Volante and then paid $210,000 to have it stretched 15 centimetres. Malone's PR machine insisted he was driving a 14-year-old Mercedes, forgetting that Malone had told the whole story to the UK's ClassicDriver.com website. Filthy lucre US regulators started to look into the accounting at oil services company Halliburton for cost overruns incurred when it was run by Dick Cheney before he became US Vice-President to George W Bush. Halliburton is well known for its ability to win contracts to help build US military bases in other countries. Lost Brambles chairman Don Argus denied that the company had lost its pallets. According to Argus, the missing 15 million or so CHEP pallets weren't really lost. Brambles just had to find them, that was all. Let me say it again US Treasury Secretary, Paul O'Neill demonstrated his mastery of putting his foot in it. When Enron collapsed, facing angry creditors, more than 4000 ex-employees, some of whom had lost all their retirement savings, and a criminal probe by the US Justice Department, O'Neill said: "Companies come and go. It's part of the genius of capitalism." A good idea at the time Three years after promising to increase rail patronage by 84 percent and 40 percent for trams, and to achieve what no government could ever do — make a profit — UK transport giant National Express said it was all too hard. Writing off $400 million, it handed trains and trams back to the Victorian Government. Using other people's money The Tesna syndicate, headed by Solomon Lew and Lindsay Fox, announced a $2.5 billion plan to revive Ansett's operations with 29 new planes flying major routes and 4000 staff working for lower wages and reduced conditions in return for a share of profits. Four months later, Fox and Lew pulled out when the Government declined to foot the bill. Only a few mistakes Jean-Marie Messier, disgraced ex-chief of the world's second largest media group, Vivendi Universal, said his only big mistakes were that he should have sacked his directors, not done so many deals, sold the group's utilities subsidiary, got on better with politicians and listened to warnings from his family. That didn't stop French investigators swooping on his home looking for evidence that the company had issued misleading financial information. "I don't have time to be depressed", Messier said. What a guy! Former GE ubermensch Jack Welch said he had finally decided that GE shareholders should not be expected to pay for his retirement package, which included maid service, corporate jets, the best seats at the US Open and basketball games, wine, food, newspapers, laundry and toiletries at an US$80,000-a-month Central Park apartment because of "perception matters". Not because it was wrong. And so on and so on.