I too feel mud accumulating. I'm not planning on running for anything, although I may need to run away from some people. As Fats Waller used to say, "One never know, do one?"
Let's start with the analysts. These chaps put out "private" reports analyzing corporate prospects. To be fair, some have taken a shellacking themselves from Spitzer for recommending stocks they did not believe in. Fair enough. Lying for profit has no place outside of the writing of fiction.
The analysts bay for blood, speaking as they always do with one voice. Standing on the sidelines, commenting on this issue or that, and expecting to be paid for their thoughts. Why, the very idea!
Step forward next the audit community. If the Spitzerettes have it right, all those true and fair views that auditors have appended to financial statements for years are hogwash. It is very possible that Spitzer is being unfair and untrue himself, but if his writ-heavy crew is even remotely in touch with reality, a material number of auditors have been asleep at the ticking and bopping machines.
The impending damage to the auditing profession may be the real story here. The odd insurer may take the fall, but most insurance people will live to enjoy their allegedly only slightly ill-gotten gains. By the time shareholders and their attorneys are done suing everyone in the Yellow Pages, I might even be working for the Big Four, and I don't even do audits--though I used to be an accountant.
Speaking of shareholders, there's a slap-happy mob if ever I saw one. Not content to garner returns of 12 percent, they spend their days praying to Mammon for ever-greater profits, to be reported quarterly without exception. The pressure on insurance execs to make Q2 bigger than Q1 and so ad infinitum is a direct cause, maybe the direct cause, of whatever Spitzer and his cronies believe may have gone wrong. Irrational expectations kill--speak to my old girlfriends if you doubt it.
One cannot exempt the media. I don't mean considered journals such as this; I refer to all-financial news channels and poorly written financial pages of many newspapers, instant experts all. Excess of advertising and dearth of content produce this hot air, 90-some percent of which is low-grade speculation.
And, finally, here come new dimwits to the table. Press reports suggest that 10 percent of American males have a blog, an online diary of their inner thoughts. You should read some of this noise. Opinions are like rear ends; everyone has one, and most of them stink. With little or no experience of life (which occurs elsewhere while they are busy blogging), these ninnies regurgitate whatever they heard on the car radio as if it were pure wisdom from on high.
Joe Public thus faces a genuine problem: what to believe. He neatly solves this dilemma by basing his opinion on whatever is broadcast at him the loudest, and then popping out for a beer.
When any of the aforementioned boneheads complains that insurance executives earn too much money, consider the hoo-ha to which their every action is subjected. Around the world, the story is the same. A few people do, and the rest, who don't, sit around saying: "I wouldn't have done it that way." Good system, eh?
a writer, editor and former accountant, is a regular columnist for Risk & Insurance®. He also covers issues on alternative risk.
September 15, 2005
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