Friday, November 27, 2009

The world's most outrageous CEOs

The media loves to makes lists – the richest people in the world, the biggest companies in the world and so on. Forbes has compiled a rather unusual list – the 10 most outrageous CEOs of 2009.

Bernie Madoff would have been a slam dunk for the winner – but his place in the sun was last year – so he’s disqualified.

This year’s list is full of people who have been charged or indicted of fraud. Robert Moran sentenced for tax fraud at No 10, David Rubin indicted for fraud at No 9, Allen Stanford accused of misappropriation at No 8, Danny Pang accused of running a Ponzi Scheme at No 7, Thomas Peters on trial for fraud at No 5, Ramalinga Raju, in jail at No 4 and Raj Rajaratnam charged with insider trading at No 3.

Sandwiched between them are Ed Libby of AIG at No 5, for the retention bonuses he decided to pay the executives of the financial products divisions who brought ruin to the company in the first place and John Thain of Merill Lynch at No 3 who pushed through bonuses before the takeover by Bank of America.

But standing at the pinnacle is Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs – by any standards a superb CEO of a brilliant company. He should be at the top of the most outstanding business leaders in the world. And yet here he is at the top of Forbes’ “outrageous gallery” sharing the stage with some of the worst corporate fraudsters. His famous joke to the Sunday Times that bankers like himself were doing God’s work, must have propelled him to the winner's post.

Just goes to show that however brilliant you may be, however successful your company may be, you will be tried at the altar of public opinion. All the millions cannot buy you respect. Character and grace are still priceless. They cannot be achieved by just business success.

For more humbler mortals like me, who may not reach such lofty heights there is still a lesson to be learnt. For every act I do, however humble a job, it would be prudent to ask the question - if what I did was splashed on the front page of the newspapers, will I be lauded; or will I be crucified ?