Monday, October 27, 2008

Richard Fuld and the Crooks

On Oct. 7th 2008, amidst falling financial markets and looming global recession, I found this photo. After looking at the photo for several minutes, I’ve gotten angry.

For those who aren’t sure what this is a photo of… it is the CEO of Lehman Brothers, Richard Fuld, as he exists a congressional hearing that took place on Monday Oct. 6, 2008. I watched much of this hearing from my living room in Dubai as it was broadcast live on CNBC. He was called before the congressional hearing because congress will be investigating the months leading up to the collapse of Lehman Brothers (the company filed for bankruptcy last week). As is apparent in the photo, Mr. Fuld is being heckled by some angry and passionate individuals. The one pink paper slip in the background sums up the sentiment perfectly… CROOK.

So what am I upset about? Here it goes…. Richard Fuld, a man who has spent his entire life working for Lehman Brothers, a man who has worked his way up through the ranks of the company over decades, a man who, presiding as CEO, led the company through the greatest growth it had ever experienced, a man who had more invested in Lehman Brothers, both financially and emotionally, than perhaps any other individual, is now being racked against the boards. He is being punished, ridiculed, berated, embarrassed, tarred, feathered, and chastised for what has occurred, not just to Lehman Brothers, but to numerous financial institutions and markets around the world.

Richard Fuld is a man who, until now, had been utterly successful, utterly deliberate, and utterly passionate about his business. He is what some consider a Great Man, a mover and shaker, a player in the game of industry. He was someone who, simply put, is a man better than many others, because he accomplished more than many others. He achieved more than many others. He pulled the world forward as only real leaders are able. He made his fortune, not by theft or deceit, not by violence or coercion, but by organizing and leading others through the noise of the modern world.

However great he was, however, his success came to an end. Whether it was his choices that led Lehman over a cliff or actions of others he could neither control nor was not aware of, the company collapsed and he, as CEO, can rightly be blamed (at least in part) for its demise. However, the anger and ridicule Richard Fuld is facing has little to do with his strategic decisions, with his leadership skills, or with his incorrect assessment of the inherent risk in credit derivatives and default swaps.

The members of the panel in the congressional hearing were not condemning Fuld’s management (of course, the market does this without “help” from the Government). Rather, they were condemning him for being wealthy while others are poor. They were condemning him for having much while others have little. The man was being torn apart from one side by covetous vultures and from the other side, a gang of thieves. These people, who do not even understand the financial industry enough to legitimately criticize Mr. Fuld, ripped him limb from limb in front of the entire world.

Mr. Fuld is being lambasted because he has money, because he stands taller than those sniveling commoners who, unable to generate their own wealth, spend their lives writhing in the mud of jealousy, leeching off the producers of the world. He is being torn apart because politicians, not satisfied with the billions of dollars in taxes they have wrested from the involuntary pockets of Lehman Brothers, its employees, its stockholders, and Mr. Fuld himself, are now, in the form of an inquisition, demanding that he explain to America why he still has millions of dollars while 20,000 employees have lost their jobs (the same jobs which upper management produced, of course), as if he has stolen something from both society and his own employees. How is it, I wonder, that Mr. Fuld is justly derided for the salary that was voluntarily given to him by the owners of the company, the owners of that salary before it was transferred to him, yet the Government – which seized through force of imprisonment – billions in taxes from the company, takes no blame for the collapse? How can this be?

However much money Richard Fuld brought home as legitimate compensation for his work, exponentially more was illegitimately wrested from Lehman Brothers by the Government. For every dollar that Fuld took home, the Government took a hundred. And while Fuld earned and worked for his dollar, the Government simply claimed a hundred as their own, expecting payment else threatening imprisonment. Yet, it was Fuld that was the criminal?!? How dare the politicians sit around in their counterfeit thrones and condemn the man who led one of the very organizations which paid for the gavel being slammed down upon him.

The Government cloaks its own purveying of misery and economic suffocation behind the fines and condemnation it slaps on others. It steals the earned money of men and then howls at them for earning it.

This tearing apart of a great individual, not for valid reasons of managerial disagreement, but for jealousy and deception, is why this photo makes me angry. As Richard Fuld leaves the stone pillars of the courthouse, no doubt manufactured and engineered by the genius of private industry and paid for with the stolen profits of business leaders before him, it appalls me to see Fuld being labeled the crook while he’s dragged down the steps of an organization that funds itself at the point of a gun… while the rest of America watches and spits on him- not even close to realizing who the real villains are. Article page