How Did These Guys Lose Touch With Reality?
When a person has access to virtually unlimited money and is reveling in such emoluments as vast homes all over the world, private yachts, private jets and a legion of scared underlings frightened of losing their jobs, doesn't a sense of total invincibility take over?
For example, Lyndon Johnson's press secretary, George Reedy, wrote "Twilight of the Presidency," in which he described life in the White House surrounded by unbelievable comforts, toys and goodies and where a fawning staff satisfies every presidential wish and whim. Reedy concluded that no man could be president of the United States for very long and maintain his psychological balance. The crash and burn of recent American presidents validates Reedy's observation: Lyndon Johnson and Vietnam, Nixon and Watergate, Carter and the Iran hostages, Reagan and Iran-Contra, Clinton and the Lewinsky impeachment.
What these enormously rich, high-powered corporate CEOs did was make decisions that turned out badly and instead of coming clean and making things right, they broke the law by trying to cover up what they had done.
Astonishingly, they pleaded ignorance. Bernard Ebbers articulated it on the witness stand:
I know what I don't know. To this day, I don't know technology, and I don't know finance or accounting. I always thought I was a good coach, and supervising marketing and sales people is like coaching. I focused on an area I thought I could handle.
But as former federal prosecutor Fahy Choi was quoted as saying in The New York Times, "To have someone making millions and millions of dollars saying 'I was disorganized; I wasn't paying attention' is something that jurors just can't understand."
Ultimately, these guys lost sight of the fact that they were running publicly-held corporations rather than private fiefdoms. The collateral damage of their misdeeds has been substantial: