Saturday, March 13, 2010

Leadership crisis

We are all used to political leadership with feet of clay. But times have changed and frail leadership is no more the the exclusive core incompetence of politics alone.

Religion, business or auditing---in fact name any field and you will come across leaders falling prey to base instincts, manipulative greed and reckless malpractice. A few current examples would suffice to create angst in the most steadfast minds.

According to media reports today, allegations regarding child abuse have for the first time " touched the Pope's brother as well as the Pontiff himself , albeit indirectly." The recently-reported shenanigans of some "spiritual gurus" in India are too outrageous to recount.

Richard Fuld who was the CEO of Lehman Brothers when it collapsed exemplifies the crisis in business leadership. Referring to the accounting chicanery adopted in the firm to create delusion of deleverage, he has pleaded ignorance of Repo 105. He claims he did not structure or negotiate such tricks ; he was not aware of their accounting treatment and at no time did senior officers of Lehman , legal counsel or Ernst & Young raise any concern about the use of Repo 105 with him. This desperate exhibition of "innocence" is unlikely to mislead anyone.

Ernst & Young , one of the Big Four in audit firms, earned $31 m from Lehman in the year 2007 only to turn a blind eye to the mischief of Repo 105. This is despite some whistle blowers cautioning them. Would the Big Four get truncated to Big Three in the near future?

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