Let’s say GM (GM) goes bankrupt, what are the odds that Wagoner & Co. will face subpoenas, zealous prosecutors and the threat of jail time? We think it’s pretty low. So does our friend Tom Kirkendall, who wonders why the treatment of GM execs has been so much different than the Enron guys (or the Lehman crew, or the AIG crowd).
The answer is that GM is the proverbial slow-motion trainwreck. There’s been talk about the possibility of a GM bankruptcy for years. The fact that management let it get to this spot — where they’ve only got a few quarters to live — is horrible, but just doesn’t feel criminal, even if they’ve been spouting the kind of nonsensical optimism that would make Dick Fuld blush.
Conversely, when your company goes from hero to zero in the matter of months or weeks, it’s hard for most people to wrap their heads around the idea that that’s business as usual. How could there not have been criminal activity? That was actually the essence of the Enron prosecutions. It all looked so bad, it was only a matter of finding what crime was commited, not finding out whether if a crime was commited.
Unfortunately, failing slow is easier said than done. Find someone else who can help you put it into practice.
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