Thursday, March 03, 2005

Thoughts on Martha Stewart's relase from prison

Why is Jack Welch, who laid-off over 100,000 workers during his years running General Electric, lionized as an exemplar of corporate leadership, while Martha Stewart, who created a successful company out of nothing, is regarded as someone who got her just desserts when she was sent to prison for actions stemming from a purported case of insider trading? I don't condone insider trading, but for the amount of money involved in Ms. Stewart's case one can hardly accuse her of bilking other investors to any significant degree. Unlike the executives who ran Enron or WorldCom, Martha Stewart did not wipe-out anyone's retirement money. The worst thing one can say about her is that she was guilty of hubris.

I submit that Martha Stewart would have never gone to trial for her actions related to the trading of ImClone stock if she had been a man. In fact, had she been a man she would have been lauded as someone who was shrewd enough to get out of ImClone when she did. If she had gone on to layoff thousand of workers perhaps she would even be regarded as some sort of role model, à la Jack Welch.

Martha Stewart is not a poster child for oppressed women. She is a rich, powerful person who got caught doing something stupid and illegal. She is, by all accounts, a difficult person for whom to work. She should not, however, been sent to prison while the likes of Kenneth Lay, Bernie Ebbers, and Dennis Kozlowski are still walking free. Once all of them are punished (along with the Jack Welchs of the world, who may not be thieves, but who deserve to be punished for the suffering they have caused), then we can go after the likes of Martha Stewart. If anything, she deserves to be held more accountable for the way she has treated her workers than the way she has traded stocks. Cruelty, however, is not a crime.

No comments: