Spitzer, Client No. 9: Good Riddance
About the only thing that Eliot Spitzer did right in tendering his resignation as the governor of New York on March 12 was that he did tender his resignation. If only Spitzer had been able in the end to reserve for himself some of the self-righteous rage that he vented on those he had accused of breaking the law.
But Spitzer's overheated and self-serving pursuit of "wrongdoers" was revealed for what it was. Spitzer, as it turns out, wasn't interested in righting wrongs for the sake of righting wrongs; he was interested in being perceived as a righter of wrongs to serve his own political ambitions.
Even when he was confronted point-blank with the inescapable proof of his moral wretchedness, Spitzer waffled. In the first day's action after the news broke, he offered a vague apology. He still couldn't find it to put a specific point on his hypocrisy two days later when he did finally offer his resignation.
And please keep in mind that hypocrisy isn't defined by Spitzer being a client of brothels and a prosecutor of financial services executives. It is defined by the fact that he was a prosecutor of prostitution rings who was on at least eight occasions, according to court documents, the client of a prostitution ring.
And what was it about the governor's office that propelled Spitzer into the arms of prostitutes? Was he using them all along, or did he finally feel like he deserved kingly treatment after making the rank of governor?
When Spitzer was revealed to be the rank fraud that he was, he set the cause of ethical progress in the financial services and, specifically, the insurance sector back considerably.
When he was on his high horse as New York's attorney general, Spitzer had the gall to call for the resignations of the CEOs of two of the insurance world's largest players, American International Group Inc. and Marsh & McLennan Companies.
But ever since that piece of political brinksmanship, one could argue that both companies have struggled to right themselves and to bring cohesiveness back to their corporate cultures.
And now the very man who had the hubris to shake those institutions to their cores will slink off into the night with the receipt for a high-priced call girl in his sweaty palm.
Eliot Spitzer was an effective prosecutor of the wrongs in the insurance and financial services industries as long as everyone in the game believed he was a rabid and rapid upholder of the law.
All of us must have someone to answer to, or we become worthless. That includes governors and presidents.
As many times as those we elect and pay to uphold the law let us down, we must always believe that there are those among us on whom we place that trust who are worthy of it.
As long as Eliot Spitzer was perceived to be that worthy man, the insurance industry and the financial sector at large was the better for it. Intelligent and striving men and women feared him.
Watch out for Eliot, they whispered over their iced 18-year-old Glenlivet and roasted quail with blood orange and Cabernet Franc reduction, and don't let the bedbugs bite.
The minute he was no longer perceived to be that man, his value to the industry and to his constituency ceased to exist.
"Spitzer!" the ambitious financial sector people sneered. "As oversexed as he was overambitious. Pour me another Glenlivet and one for yourself and please pass the goat-cheese-smeared crouton and roasted fennel appetizer plate. And good riddance!"
Good riddance indeed.
DAN REYNOLDS is senior editor of Risk & Insurance®.
April 15, 2008
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