Tar and Feathers
A Letter to the Editor of The Washington Post
2002 July 21
This letter was published in The Washington Post on 2002 July 21. I wrote it in response to a Letter submitted by Andrew Grove, CEO of Intel. Groves had been bemoaning the low esteem in which CEOs have been held, especially after scandals at Enron. And Worldcom. And Tyco. And...
I'm not very sympathetic to these complaints. CEOs earn outrageous compensation, allegedly to compensate them for the huge risks they run. Yet, when the chips are down, those same CEOs seem to come out of it alright. It's the lowly worker and the little investor who actually pay the price of mismanagement... but somehow, they are not compensated for the risk. To ask for respect on top of Croesus' hoard seemed, to me, over the top.
Sunday, July 21, 2002; Page B06

Perhaps Andrew S. Grove, the chairman of Intel, will forgive us for being less than sympathetic to the plight of the CEO, especially considering how conflicted he himself seems to be ["Stigmatizing Business," op-ed, July 17].

On the one hand, he says the recent corporate scandals have let "the faults, however egregious, of a few taint the public perception of all." Yet later, he notes, "Corporate misdeeds, like poor quality, are a result of a systemic problem, and a systemic problem requires a systemic solution."

In other words: "Only a tiny fraction of our CEOs are flawed, so I am not to blame. And also, the entire system is flawed, so again -- conveniently -- I am not to blame." The main thrust seems to be: "Leave me alone to take the profits I see fit, no matter who you think is at fault."

What Mr. Grove seems not to see is that the entire culture of big business is the problem. We are tarring-and-feathering CEOs as a class because as a class they seem to be in need of it.


Princeton, N.J.

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