Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Criminal Capitalism Redux

I guess they couldn't wait to get their bonuses. They thought it was just business as usual.

A total of six employees of the Siemens telecommunications unit Com have been arrested in connection with diverting the money to foreign bank accounts believed set up in order to pay bribes.

A former Siemens board member and three other employees were taken into custody last week, and two more suspects were detained on Wednesday, according to prosecutors in Munich.

The detentions followed a November 15 raid by 270 police and tax officials on the company's headquarters and other offices and private homes as part of an international investigation into bribery by company employees.

Altogether a total of 12 people are suspected of embezzling funds. A key focus of the investigation centres on contracts surrounding the security system for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, according to German media reports.

On Thursday, prosecutors announced they had charged a former DaimlerChrysler executive with embezzling 40 million euros between 2000 and 2005.

The man, who is in pre-trial detention, is alleged to have set up three dummy companies and submitted false invoices which were approved by the accounts department where he worked. Some 20 million euros was recovered when the fraud was exposed last year.

DaimlerChrysler earlier this year suspended several senior managers in its bus-making division and dismissed high-ranking employees over irregularities in its distribution network.

Criminal Capitalism remains the story of the year.

And like the recent CEO's pay scandals in the United States, or the back dating of stock options, captialism is a criminal activity until its made public.

Until then it is simply business as usual. No one though goes to jail, unlike the poor worker who is caught shoplifting or say engaging in robbery to keep body and soul together.

Nope White Collar crime ain't really a crime, nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

Once exposed then and only then does the captialist concede that maybe, just maybe they have done something wrong. But even then that isn't always the case. Take Steve Jobs and Apple for example.

An investigation into stock option irregularities by Apple has cleared its current executive team of any misconduct, although CEO Steve Jobs was found to be aware or recommended favorable grant dates, the company said in its regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Based on the findings of the independent investigation, Apple will take an additional non-cash charge of $84 million, after tax. This charge includes $4 million, $7 million and 10 million in fiscal years 2006, 2005 and 2004 respectively.

While Jobs was aware of the grants, the probe concluded that he did not financially benefit from any of the grants. The special committee set up to investigate the irregularities raised concerns regarding the actions of two former officers in connection with the accounting, recording and reporting of stock option grants.

While the probe did not name the officers, Fred Anderson, former chief financial officer resigned from the board in October as the company announced the internal investigation’s end. He said then he believed it was in Apple’s best interest for him to resign. Nancy Heinen, former senior vice president and general counsel left the company, quietly and without comment, in May. At the time, a company spokesman confirmed she had left, but couldn’t say why.

In Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs is admired for many things: His storybook resuscitation of Apple Computer Inc., his billion-dollar-plus fortune, his rock star status as the driving force behind iconic products such as the iPod. Near the top of the list is Jobs's famed ability to spin what admiring techies refer to as a "reality distortion field" to win consumers over to the Apple view of the world.

But will it work with government regulators? As Jobs prepares to wow the masses once again with his keynote at the annual Macworld trade show on Jan. 9, skepticism abounds among options experts, as well as techies, that the Apple chief executive is totally in the clear over his role in resetting start dates for company stock options. A report issued on Dec. 29 by a two-member special committee, composed of no less than former Vice-President Al Gore and tough-minded finance veteran Jerome B. York, "found no misconduct" by Jobs or other managers. Yet it acknowledged that he knew about some of the 6,428 option grants handed out between late 1996 and early 2003--roughly 15% of the total in that time--that were improperly dated to give employees an artificially low price. On some occasions, Jobs even recommended the dates.



Stock Options
Corporate Crime

White Collar Crime

Criminal Capitalism

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