While scrounging around the front pages of the newspaper the other day. I found a fascinating story, Mr. Robert P. Beasley, a former executive vice president of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Co., was indicted in Manhattan on charges of having stolen most of $1 million in corporate money, which was supposedly set aside for illegal political campaign contributions.
Mr. Beasley, so the 40-count indictment reads, allegedly used the political slush money that Firstone set aside to finance personal investments and debts he had accrued.
The season the story attracted my attention is that it seemed to me to be the perfect textbook case for any graduate business school.
I sought out my olf friend. Prof. Heinrich Applebaum, who holds the "chair of jurisprudence and big business payoffs" at Congtomerate Tech.
"Professor, assuming the facts are as they have bee presented in the indictment, who is right, Beasley or Firestone?"
Applebaum said, "First, we must remember that Beasley has not been convicted of any crime and still must have his day in court. Therefore, we have to deal with this case hypothetically. The tire company allegedly set aside $1 million for a political slush fund, persumably to win over politicans to the cause of rubber. Although illegal, this is a good standard business practice.
"Beasley allegedly was responsible for disbursing these funds to worthy officials, who, when elected, would look kindly on Firestone when a government rubber problem came up.
"But if he used the money for his own personal benefit. Beasley violated the trust the company had put in him."
"But if the slush fund was illegal in the first place, what is the difference between what Beasley allegedly did and what Firestone attempted to do."
"I would say that the answer is that when a large corporation sets aside a million dollars to illegally finance political campaigns, it is the obligation of the individual assigned to dispense the money to see that it goes for what it was designated for. After all, you have to sell a lot of tires to raise a million dollars."
"Yet, isn't it possible that Beasley needed the million dollars more than the politicans who were supposed to get it?"
Applebaum said. "That possibly true. But no company which set up an illegal political fund can afford to let one of its officers keep the money for himself. This would be breaking faith with the stockholders who expect a company to spread around a slush fund where it will do the most good. How can a corporation ask a political to do it a favor when it hasn't contributed to the candidate's campaign."
"Right," I said. "But look at it from this angle. Maybe Beasley did Firestone a favor. If he had used the money illegally for political contributions, all the top officers of Firestone might have been indicted. This way, only he got indicted. And the Firestone people are off the hook."
"That's true. But that is only because Beasley got fingered. If he had given the money to the people Firestone was trying to get in the bag, we might never have known about it."
"Not only did Beasley let his company down but he has made it practically impossible for Firestone to set up another political slush fund for quite some time. This means Firestone will have no support amongst elected officials for years to come. You can't run a tire company without political friends."
"Tell me, professor, if you had been in Firestone's place what would you have done with the million dollars?"
"If I had thought Beasley was going to keep the money. I would have taken the million and bought the Goodyear blimp."