Doug McKee: After careful analysis, I feel that a large scale crisis of confidence is looming for the USA

Investors are nervously perched on the edge of their seats these days. Many of them are watching their personal and/or corporate funds disappear in to the wilderness that the major markets have become. It seems that in considering the fortunes of any company and its publicly traded securities, we need to look much deeper than ever before. A number of reasons are extant. Easy to find, but possibly not so easy to understand and apply.

As a political animal, I have no difficulty locating and defining those individuals who would be quick to blame President George W. Bush for all of the misery. It is a quick fix in the blame game and one that I emphatically do not support. In my own observation, the President has made his securities trading transparent to the degree that one would be waging a personal vendetta to claim otherwise. Yes, there was a debate regarding the filing of certain forms in the Harken matter (SEC Forms 144 and 4). Yes, there was a problem with one of these not being filed in a timely manner, although the American media has belatedly pointed out that they were ultimately filed. An unpleasant and unfortunate oversight, at worst, in my opinion.

A few days ago, an American conservative activist organization, Judicial Watch, brought legal action against Vice President Cheney dating back to his days as an executive with Halliburton, a high power player in the energy industry. Until the full story becomes public, this again smacks of politics. A wait and see attitude would be prudent and reasonable.

In my view, the real problems are seated around tables and behind ostentatious desks in corporate ivory towers. I refer to the CEO's, CFO's and assorted lesser corporate types who comprise the power structure and decision making forces at the major corporations. Some of them are fine human beings, decent and honest to a fault. Others are of the "anything for the almighty buck" variety and often without scruples or dignity of any kind. A friend much wiser than I once characterized them as people who would be likely to kill their own parents so they could attend the orphans picnic. That may be facetious to a degree, but in light of the economic havoc triggered by the machinations of these people, you might want to reconsider before you scoff.

There is, indeed, something fundamentally wrong when high power corporate types feel empowered to juggle, manipulate or otherwise "cook" their financial records. It is unsavory, though probably not blatantly illegal, for insider loans and stock options to even be on the table as well. I fail to see the value or virtue of publishing grossly inflated corporate performance numbers, unless of course the objective is securities price manipulation for personal gain. Unfortunately it is the innocent small individual investor, the pension fund manager or a mutual fund executive who suffers heavy and often crippling losses when the sleazy corporate effluvia becomes airborne via the media and collides with the rotating air distribution device in the court of public opinion. After careful analysis, I feel that a large scale crisis of confidence is looming for the USA. This event would be vastly in excess of the current downturn in securities markets. Even more destabilizing would be the influence of those who would hope to create poltical turmoil with themselves as beneficiaries. Such a crisis can and must be averted.

We are long past the point where decisive action is mandated. The guilty parties must be exposed, their actions fully detailed for public scrutiny, then indicted, convicted and incarcerated. Terms of punishment must be clear and non negotiable. New additional legislation must be enacted to increase investigation and enforcement. If we fail, we will witness a Carter-esque malaise and serious loss of economic confidence in our capitalist society. The stench from the disease known as greed must be eradicated. As a nation, we turn the other cheek at our own distinct peril.

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