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.
"Public relations firms giving advice on corporate ethics? That sounds like a plot line straight out of a movie by Woody Allen," Jeff Barge, president of Lucky Star Public Relations, wrote in a July 30 Wall St. Journal letter-to-the-editor. Quoting Barges remarks, Paul Holmes, editor of the Holmes Reports, reflects on PR's role in ethical corporate policy making.
"I have been an accomplice to the murders of untold numbers of human beings," writes Joe Eszterhas, the author of movie megahits such as Flashdance and Basic Instinct. "I am admitting this only because I have made a deal with God. Spare me, I said, and I will try to stop others from committing the same crimes I did." His crime? Making smoking look "cool and glamorous ... an integral part of many of my screenplays." Eszterhas says his moral awakening came after he was diagnosed with throat cancer, "the result of a lifetime of smoking. I am alive but maimed.
Adelphia Communications is using Robinson Lerer & Montgomery for crisis PR in the aftermath of its bankruptcy filing and the arrest last week of several company executives. "RL&M's mission is to reassure cable subscribers that the company has a future once its reorganization is completed," writes O'Dwyer's PR Daily. An ad campaign will urge cable subscribers to "stick with us," characterizing the bankruptcy as "a reorganization effort to rebuild the company and restore its integrity."
"With the avalanche of corporate accounting scandals that have rocked the markets recently, it's getting hard to keep track of them all--but our Corporate Scandal Sheet does the job," boasts Forbes magazine. "Here we'll follow accounting imbroglios only--avoiding insider-trading allegations like those plaguing ImClone, since chronicling every corporate transgression would simply be impractical."
In 1997, the wife of Phillip Bonaffini died from an infection she contracted during cardiac surgery at Bridgeport Hospital. Another patient, Eunice Babcock, was left wheelchair-bound due to a staphylococcus infection that she contracted during surgery at the same hospital. The hospital settled the cases out of court by paying Bonaffini and Babcock an undisclosed sum in exchange for signed confidentiality agreements.
The White House allegedly threatened a Judicial Watch process server with arrest while he was trying to provide legal notification of a lawsuit to Vice President Dick Cheney. The conservative organization Judicial Watch has brought a lawsuit against Cheney for fraudulent accounting practices at Halliburton Corporation while Cheney was the company's chief executive.