Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Alcatraz: The Remedy for White-Collar Crime?

December 12, 2004 - Street Insight

  • I propose all executives convicted of a white-collar crime serve their time at Alcatraz.
  • Serving six months to a year would make an honest person out of even the most crooked offender.
A couple days ago, I briefly visited San Francisco (I left my heart there). I had several hours of free time to kill, so like any self-respecting tourist, I went on a tour of Alcatraz -- what a place! I don't have a frame of reference, since it was my first prison visit (and hopefully my last), but it must have been the most awful and unpleasant place in U.S. to be sentenced to.
This Alcatraz visit brought me to a realization that the U.S. government is misusing this national treasure. In fact, I strongly believe the National Park Service should turn Alcatraz back over to the Department of Corrections. Alcatraz could single-handedly restore investors' faith in financial statements and markets. My proposal is very simple: First, all executives of publicly-traded companies that commit a white-collar crime (i.e. lie to investors, manipulate a company's financial statements, do insider trading, steal money from their company, etc.) should serve their time at Alcatraz, not in a minimum-security country house.
Time served doesn't have to be very long. After seeing the horridness of Alcatraz, the reader will agree that six months to a year is plenty of time to make an honest person out of even the most crooked executive.
Second, the SEC should require every executive of a publicly-traded company to take a guided tour of the functioning prison at least once a year -- with Eliot Spitzer as a guide. This once-a-year field trip would eliminate even a trace of temptation to commit a white-collar crime. If the aforementioned suggestions are implemented, our children will think that white-collar crime is when your dry cleaner did not remove the stain from the dress shirt. Wouldn't that be nice?
Vitaliy N. Katsenelson, CFA Copyright 2004


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