Man, what a week that was!
Man, what a week that was!
Rupert Murdoch, who for decades made profit and sport running roughshod over competitors, public figures and anyone who dared to get in his way, was treated to a generous dose of his own medicine. Although the humbled press lord was able to quickly wipe from his face the cream pie hurled at him at last week’s parliamentary hearing, he won’t easily recover from the tire marks left on his back by the politicians, prosecutors and vengeful press pack. For a man who loves to rationalize the excesses of his media empire by claiming he was just giving the public what it wanted, it must have been particularly galling to see how many have shown up for a seat at his hanging.
European leaders, meanwhile, met yet again in Brussels to hammer out the latest fix for a debt crisis that has already claimed as victims the economies of Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and now Italy. The challenge, as it has always been, is how to apportion the pain for excessive borrowing among banks and other bond investors, European taxpayers and the residents of overly indebted countries. This would be a difficult exercise under any circumstance, made more difficult in this case by the reality that, despite a common currency, Europe is still not anything close to a single political or economic entity.
And then there was the never-ending budget circus in Washington, with a tea-besotten House voting to write its budget-balancing fetish into the U.S. Constitution, even as Senate leaders were putting the final touches on a bipartisan sleight of hand to borrow an additional $2.5 trillion without requiring a single Republican to vote for it. Meanwhile, President Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner tried once again to reach a “grand bargain” that would have actually put the government on a path toward a balanced budget and once again were foiled by anti-tax jihadists in the House Republican caucus. Without some resolution, the U.S Treasury runs out of cash Aug. 2.
The common thread running through these various crises is that they were all predictable and widely predicted, which raises the vexing question of why successful, seasoned leaders failed to deal with them earlier, when the pain would have been significantly less.
Let’s start with Murdoch. Although Britain’s phone-hacking scandal dates to at least 2006, it kicked into high gear last year when London’s Guardian newspaper and the New York Times published credible evidence that editors and reporters had not come clean about their reliance on private detectives using underhanded methods.
The chief executive’s handbook is pretty clear on what to do in such circumstances: You engage the toughest white-collar lawyer you can find, give her carte blanche to run a thorough internal investigation and tell all the people who report to you, and the people who report to them, that if they destroy a single e-mail, hide a single invoice or withhold even a smidgeon of the truth, they’ll be fired on the spot and will never work in the industry again. You do this not because you are a saint — but because you want to find this stuff out before one of your many enemies does.