Richard Kimble: “I didn’t kill my wife!”
Deputy Marshall Samuel Gerard: “I don’t care!”
-- Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones, “The Fugitive,” 1993
Is there a living soul, outside the shrinking and isolated circle around Sepp Blatter, so deluded as to believe that he improved his chances of escaping prison in either the United States or his native Switzerland, by imposing on indicted bagman Jack Warner a “lifetime ban” from the inner circles of the pervasively corrupt soccer overseer, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association?
Or put in terms the long-surviving autocrat plainly does not comprehend, why should a prosecutor -- ready to bag as a trophy the head of one of the world’s great houses of corruption -- give any credence to an illusory act of virtue among this sordid gang of thieves?
This latest study in leadership decisions and behavior under the threat of law enforcement will occupy classrooms in business and law schools for years to come. And as I had predicted in May, it has come back to the fore, as I had the pleasure of discussing this week, with a welcoming audience about the anticipated November release by Emerald Publishing of my book, “Count Down: The Past, Present and Uncertain Future of the Big Four Accounting Firms.”
That’s because – like Blatter – back in the winter of 2002, under a storm of criticism over their proximity to the collapse of Enron Corp., the leaders of Arthur Andersen clung both to their offices and to a futile media campaign of proclaimed rectitude – allowing the US Department of Justice to form and hold the fatal perception that Enron’s auditors were a crew of unrepentant recidivists.
The consequences were fatal for the Andersen firm. Down to date, although no management team every willingly gives up its powers or its privileges, other recent examples support some post-Enron recognition that a prosecutor having life-or-death authority will expect credible action, and will react only with anger to sweet but arid talk or stubborn and self-righteous arrogance:
- In July, Toshiba Corp. promptly cleaned house of its president, vice chairman and senior advisor, on the revelation of multi-year accounting irregularities and earnings corrections upwards of 152 billion yen.
- Announced on September 8, United Airlines sacked CEO Jeffrey Smisek and two senior colleagues under the pressure of prosecutors’ inquiries into special flights arranged for the personal convenience of the chairman of the authority regulating Newark Airport.
- On September 23, Martin Winterkorn was cashiered as Volkswagen’s CEO immediately on disclosure of the global-scale manipulation of emission controls on the company’s diesel vehicles, with other senior executives thrown under the wheels and the company’s reputation and brand value reduced to so much scrap.
But one theme should be reaching through to the singularly obtuse Blatter: he has nothing with which to trade. The currency he had long used to purchase the fealty of his hierarchy of complaisant minions – handsome positions, lavish perks and abundant funds to lubricate the machinery of local and regional influence – is now debased and valueless in the personal calculations of Warner and his fellow criminal targets.
Pointing to his resignation from FIFA back in 2011, Warner perceptively observed that, “there is no such thing as a coincidence” in the timing of FIFA’s current move against him, the same week that Swiss authorities officially placed Blatter under criminal investigation.
Facing extradition to the US and extended incarceration unless persuaded to bargain with his valuable testimony against Blatter, Warner has much more to worry about than FIFA’s meaningless slap – and every incentive to deal.
The image that overlays Warden’s reaction to Blatter, then, is that of Sharon Stone’s posture in the police interrogation scene in Fatal Instinct (1992):
“There’s no smoking in this building, Miss Tramell.”
“What are you gonna do? Charge me with smoking?”
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