AMERICAN ACCOUNTING PRACTICES USED TO BE THE ENVY OF THE WORLD. Then came the crimes of Enron and Arthur Andersen, foreshadowed and followed by hundreds of cases of fraud and malfeasance cases of illegal collusion between corporate management and those hired by stockholders to be the watchdogs.
There are revelations today in the New York Times that the firm Custer Battles repeatedly billed the Coalition Provisional Authority for non-existent services.
After a few years of news about how bad it is to fix prices, rig deals, and distort market forces, I find it remarkable that Eliot Spitzer seems to have no difficulty finding giant firms to shake to their foundation. Now, AIG Chairman Hank Greenberg and his son Marsh & McLennan CEO Jeffrey Greenberg may find themselves tied up in yet another huge case of corporate criminality. The son may be on the way out real fast.
What does the American brand name mean anymore?
I have a lot of respect for Claudia Rosett who deserves enormous credit for breaking the oil-for-food scandal that swirled between Iraq, the United Nations, and major nations around the world, including U.S. firms. Regrettably, she works as journalist-in-residence at the Fund for Defense of Democracies, but she does great investigative work.
My problem though is that she is writing nothing about the staggering fact that America’s corruption rivals that of the U.N. The corrupt practices of blue-chip players in American society that are self-dealing and those who dip into the U.N. cookie jar for self benefit are similarly disgusting and similarly neglected until the cases fester so much that ignoring the corruption doesn’t work any more.
I am traveling now, and it is tough to search and link the countless stories on missing money under the Coalition Provisional Authority’s watch. But this floors me. After all the controversy about the single-bid, forced down-our-throat contract with Halliburton, Reuters reports:
The U.S. Army is laying the groundwork to let Halliburton Co. keep several billion dollars paid for work in Iraq that Pentagon auditors say is questionable or unsupported by proper documentation, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
According to Pentagon documents reviewed by the Journal, the Army has acknowledged that the Houston-based company might never be able to account properly for some of its work, which has been probed amid accusations that Halliburton’s Kellogg Brown & Root unit overbilled the government for some operations in Iraq.
Even if I wanted to give Bush the benefit of the doubt on some of his idealistic crusading around the world, I can’t.
When our example is deep corruption abroad and at home, when we can’t manage to hold senior leadership accountable for Abu Ghraib, and when deceiving the public by withholding or classifying information that could help us make better policy choices, America has no moral standing. . .none.
— Steve Clemons