Continuing Excess and Greed

There is little sign the revolting excesses and greed of top executives of Western financial companies that are largely responsible for the global economic gout are being anyway curbed, and as we have seen in recent years, such bubble-minded individuals only experience some degree of ignominy when they are hauled into court and put behind bars.

As the American economy lurches from one industrial-sector meltdown to another – the latest, cars, with GM saying this week it’s almost out of cash – and the government moves in with multibillion-dollar bailouts, some firms cannot see the error of their ways.

Take the near-bankrupt American International Group (AIG), the beneficiary of an US$85-billion rescue in September, after which it was reported that company executives were flown on a private jet to a hunting party in England, an official trip costing millions of dollars.

Then on Monday this week, Washington announced an upped bailout for the insurance giant, after an earlier expansion of $37.8 billion, for a total of Rp150 billion. This as AIG reported it lost $24.47 billion in the third quarter of this year.

On Tuesday, media reports said AIG had recently held a costly seminar at a luxury hotel for 150 independent financial planners, forcing chairman and chief executive Edward Liddy to respond that the event was a positive business move for the besieged company as it generated sales of some $200 million.

But it doesn’t alter the tone.

We hope the US authorities make good on their vows that corporate greed be stamped out, that bosses who run their businesses into the ground do not walk away with golden parachutes amounting to tens of millions of dollars. And we welcome British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s statement this week that the global financial system is undergoing a transformation that will see it emerge as a different order.

Call it financial evolution: only the economically fittest will survive, and those who have been long clawing off for their ultimate personal gain, leading to the current ills, will become extinct.

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