"Pick up The Wall Street Journal today, and the business pages are full of stories about the men and women who built the stock market bubble," writes business journalist Philip Longman. "But there's another sector of the economy, deeply implicated in the collapse, whose conflicts of interest, ethical lapses and naive enthusiasms have so far received little press attention: business journalism itself." Longman examines the conflicts of interest and delusions that led journalists to hype the stock market bubble.
If you're wondering how corporate America was able to bamboozle so many people into throwing their life savings away on worthless investments, part of the answer lies in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (PSLRA), which was lobbied into law by the National Investor Relations Institute.
Halliburton Corp., Vice President Dick Cheney's troubled former company, has hired spin doctor Michael Sitrick, whose firm was most recently hired by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to manage its pedophile-priests scandal. "Halliburton, being sued by shareholders for alleged fraud, is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and might face a financial meltdown if it can't negotiate a global settlement over asbestos litigation," notes the Washington Post.
Life is tough these days for corporate executives, sighs US News & World Report. "After being lionized by investors and the media and showered with money and perks for the past decade, corporate officers and directors are now feeling the heat," writes Matthew Benjamin. "To many executives, the job may not be worth the hassle," and many are worried about the legal liabilities that now come with the job.
"Sustainable Development is dead. Its demise came, ironically, at the World Summit on Sustainable Development," CorpWatch's Kenny Bruno writes in his report from the UN meeting in Johannesburg. "It's not that the phrase wasn't invoked. It was, ad nauseum. But it was hardly discussed. Instead, sustainable development was deemed to be whatever compromise governments happen to reach on trade, subsidies, investment and aid, and whatever projects corporations see fit to finance. 'Sustainable Development' is now officially meaningless."
"'If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where all these profits came from, and why all these acquisitions went sour, what our net income is, and why WorldCom stock prices are in the toilet, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me. . ." So begins the opening paragraph of the winning submission in the "Best Fictional Earnings Release Contest," sponsored by Gregory FCA, an investor and public relations firm, based in Ardmore, PA.
Dot-com CEOs, day traders and other leading icons of the roaring 1990s are passing from the scene along with the economic bubble that created them, but Baffler editor Tom Frank notes that "one group remains untouched: the public intellectuals of the bull market. The writers of Dow-worshipping books and commentators who handed down daring pronunciamentos from the silicon heights are still cruising from one posh gig to the next.
During the roaring 90s, big media missed the big story about corporate America's excesses. "Reporters spent a lot of time covering PR news releases instead of looking behind the curtain," says investigative journalist Lowell Bergman. But corporate CEOs themselves seem to have had a pretty good idea what was lurking there.
WorldCom may be a bad example of how to run a company, but it's doing a good job of reputation management, according to Idil Cakim of the Burson-Marsteller PR firm. "WorldCom is a good example of how crisis could be managed, or at least the public could be answered, via the Internet," Cakim said, praising the web site which WorldCom has created to share information with the public about its bankruptcy.
The Initiative for Software Choice appears to be a front group for Microsoft, which is lobbying to stop governments from using open-source software. The governments of Peru and Canada are considering going to open source, which is cheaper (often free) and usually more secure and bug-free than proprietary software like Windows.