The 10 most unethical people in business
SANTA MONICA, Calif. (MarketWatch) — Ethisphere magazine has released its list of the 100 most ethical people in business. While I was intrigued by those deemed the most influential (Liu Qi, chairman of the organizing committee of the 2008 Olympics, Neelie Kroes, European commissioner for competition, and the man formerly known as Heinrich Kieber, a former computer technician for LGT bank who blew the whistle on corruption, among a hodgepodge of others), I was most interested in its list of the most unethical.
I have my own unethical list, and 50% of Ethisphere’s list pretty much jibes with it (Bush administration figures litter mine). In any event, here they are, as Ethisphere defines them: The top 10 individuals that have influenced business ethics through professional flubs.
- Bernard Madoff. Turns out a lot of people were suspicious of Madoff’s ability to deliver high percentage returns like clockwork for long periods of time. It also turns out that he allegedly ran a $50 billion Ponzi scheme that, when discovered, ruined many a life savings. It’s not yet clear how many people at Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities knew of the scam, but it’s clear that Madoff was the mastermind.
- David Colby. Colby, the former CFO of Wellpoint, was caught carrying on multiple affairs, even once texting ABORT!! to one of his many girlfriends after discovering she was pregnant. He carried on relationships with over 30 women and proposed to at least 12 of them.
- Rod Blagojevich. Blagojevich is the governor of Illinois who allegedly tried to sell the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. Some reports say he tried to trade the seat for ambassadorships, money and positions within pro-union groups and even a $150,000 salary for his wife.
- Heinz-Joachim Neubürger, Karl-Hermann Baumann and Johannes Feldmayer. The two former CFOs and former chairman of Siemens, respectively, got busted over bribery and their company was fined billions. The bribes that they paid to earn contracts could not have been worth more than the $1.4 billion settlement the company agreed to pay.
- Ted Stevens. Stevens is the former senator from Alaska who was found guilty of failing to report gifts given to him by various contractors. He faces up to five years for each of the seven counts against him. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for February 25.
- Bruno A Kaelin. Kaelin, a former senior vice president and head of corporate compliance at Alstom, was arrested in Switzerland in August following a joint Franco-Swiss-Italian investigation into his alleged role in running a bribery slush fund and laundering hundreds of millions of euros. Prior to that, Kaelin was convicted in a separate bribery case in Italy involving payoffs to two officials of the Italian electric company Enel.
- Adam Vitale. Vitale was sentenced to 30 months in prison and $180,000 restitution to be paid to AOL after he found a way to spam 1.2 million AOL users in a way that avoided being caught by AOL’s spam filter. Vitale also had 22 prior convictions, including running an online prostitution ring through Craigslist.
- Robert Rubin. Rubin, like it or not, became one of the faces tied to the 2008 financial crisis. His position of deregulation when he was Treasury secretary is now faulted by some for many of the problems of today. He also became the fall guy for Citigroup’s business strategy of leveraging more risk.
- Marco Benatti. Benatti, a former Italian director of advertising for WPP, was accused of libel last year for calling WPP chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell a mad dwarf and was alleged to have secretly pocketed millions of pounds from a deal he helped to broker. WPP’s lawyers, claiming up to 12.5 million pounds for breach of fiduciary duty, alleged at a court hearing in London that Benatti was the secret beneficiary of most of the proceeds from a 17 million pound takeover of Media Club, an Italian advertising company. Benatti sued back, alleging unfair dismissal. He argued that he was really let go because he had fallen out with Daniela Weber, WPP’s chief operating officer in Italy, with whom he alleged Sorrell was having a relationship. In last year’s libel case, Sorrell accused Benatti of circulating a computer-generated image showing him with Weber labeled the mad dwarf and the nympho schizo.
- James M. DiBlasio. DiBlasio makes the list for going on a three-day bender and hacking into the computers of his company, Ski.com, while drunk. Fortunately for him, the CEO of Ski.com wasn’t too angry about the situation and decided not to pursue charges.
If you are looking for those influencing business in a positive way, check out www.ethisphere.com. And let’s hope 2009 is a better year for ethics (although it’s already off to a rough start).
Thomas M. Kostigen is the author of You Are Here: Exposing The Vital Link Between What We Do and What That Does to Our Planet (HarperOne). www.readyouarehere.com
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