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Sunday, June 12, 2005

Spitzer: Fighting Evil For A Better World

NYT Sunday Business section writer Andrew Ross Sorkin in "Maybe Spitzer's Cape Was Too Big" discusses the acquittal of Theodore Sihpol. Sorkin suggests that maybe Spitzer should just bring prosecutions of his "strongest cases". One would hope so.

But Sorkin is a big fan of Spitzer's. He writes:

Obviously, Mr. Spitzer has done a tremendous amount of good over the past several years rooting out fraud and instilling much-needed new guidelines for how Wall Street does business. Despite questions about his political motives, there is little doubt that his intentions, at base, are genuinely to do the right thing.

That statement makes a number of assumptions.

First, I question that Spitzer can be credited with rooting out fraud on Wall Street. When thousands of years of ethical law has been enforced by the various churches created by man have not rooted out fraud, I wonder how this wunderkind could have succeeded on that note. More like it, the market itself would have weeded out the frauds without a government bureaucrat's help, thank you very much.

Second, it waits to be seen what the efficacy of the new guidelines will have. Normally, guidelines are analyzed and frauds find ways around them. Of greater worry, is that new rules and regs make the cost of doing business that much harder and more costly forcing corners to be cut. Have we really made our elections less fraudulent since McCain Feingold? More democratic? I doubt that.

Third, Spitzer's true blue motives cannot be conjured by you, me or Sorkin even if he is an employee of the paper of record. My guess is Spitzer is pursuing purported "enemies" of the common man. This is populist demagoguing with sights on higher office, no doubt.

Ironically, liberals, who are so adoring of Spitzer yet despise the actions of Joe McCarthy, do not see the parallels. McCarthy at least led an inquiry into the activities of sworn enemies of the United States. And he was only a Senator. Spitzer is a prosecutor whose threat of prison on financial destruction is more dangerous to targets who were chosen to run companies by boards representing shareholders. There is something called D&O insurance to recover lost investments. The prosecutions just drive up the cost of finding competent CEOs and other officers.

Most telling was the comment of the one juror who held out to convict Sihpol. Writes Sorkin:

The lone juror told reporters that she was convinced of Mr. Sihpol's guilt because she just could not believe the government would bring a case if there wasn't something to it.

Always remember who the "little guy" is in America. It is not the Spitzer's of the world. Think of a former accounting firm that had employed thousands (I think it was named Arthur Anderson) before jumping on a prosecutor's bandwagon.


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