Martha Stewart's involvement in insider trading allegations may finally ring in corporate reforms, according to Kevin McCauley at O'Dwyer's PR Daily. "The names of Dennis Kozlowski (Tyco), Bernie Ebbers (WorldCom), John Rigas (Adelphia Communications), Dave Komansky (Merrill Lynch) and Gary Winnick (Global Crossing) don't ring a bell to those who skip the financial pages when reading their morning papers," McCauley writes. "Martha Stewart. Ding dong. That's a bell-ringer. ...
"We've believed from the start that the perception of these negative items has been overstated," PR Week reports WorldCom CEO John Sidgmore telling shareholders at the company's June 14 annual meeting. "We must convince customers, employees, and investors of that fact." Sidgmore, who took the CEO job in April, was referring to WorldCom's growing debts, stock price plunge, and recent layoffs.
"Phony earnings, inflated revenues, conflicted Wall Street analysts, directors asleep at the switch--this isn't just a few bad apples we're talking about here," writes Fortune magazine. "This, my friends, is a systemic breakdown. Nearly every known check on corporate behavior--moral, regulatory, you name it--fell by the wayside, replaced by the stupendous greed that marked the end of the bubble. And that has created a crisis of investor confidence the likes of which hasn't been seen since--well, since the Great Depression." And the crisis hasn't even peaked yet.
"Greed and corruption have always lingered at the edges of Corporate America, from Civil War profiteers to inside-trading scandals of the '80s," observes Gary Strauss in USA Today. "Yet the new millennium has ushered in a wave of fraud, corporate malfeasance, investment scams, ethical lapses and conflicts of interest unprecedented in scope." Not coincidentally, more and more corporations are issuing feel-good reports about their achievements in the field of corporate social responsibility (CSR). According to the KPMG accounting firm, the number of U.S.
Ragnar Rylander, a respected Swedish scientist, has been doing research on the connections between environmental tobacco smoke and lung disease, research that has been secretly funded by the tobacco company Philip Morris. Rylander has been accused of manipulating his studies to suit tobacco interests, and of thus partaking in a "scientific fraud without precedent."
"CEOs, once admired as the bastion of ethical leadership, are today in decline and disgrace," writes PR counselor Fraser Seitel.
"A series of revelations of corporate malpractice and number fiddling" have destroyed investor faith in Wall Street, reports the Economist. "Investors have not only lost patience with corporate America's greed and its inability to do what it says it is doing; they have also lost confidence in Wall Street's ability to act as an honest broker between them, the providers of capital, and the corporate users of it.
The Fleishman Hillard PR firm secretly tape-recorded the sessions of an anti-tobacco group as part of an effort in the 1990s by the tobacco industry to get materials about public health groups under false pretenses, according to a report in the June issue of the American Journal of Public Health.
Dave Itzkoff has written a confessional based on his two and a half years editing Maxim, one of the so-called "lad magazines" that cater to male interest in topics like beer, sex and gadgets. Itzkoff describes the magazine's formula as "unrealistically retouched photographs, patently invented pillow talk, obvious editorial concessions to advertisers and a pervasively smug attitude. ... We didn't do issue-oriented news features or authoritative first-person narratives, and hadn't published a proper profile in almost a year -- all hallmarks of basic magazine journalism.
New studies in the Journal of the American Medical Association have found problems in medical journals involving biases and conflicts of interest. Other problems originate in news releases put out by the journals themselves, which routinely fail to mention study limitations or industry funding and may exaggerate the importance of findings. Dr.