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The Buck Stops Here

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The excessive compensation for modern Chief Executive Officers is often rationalized, particularly by the CEOs themselves, as pay for making the really hard decisions of running a company. Years ago, when CEOs were developers, scientists, and inventors, more than the glorified beancounters most are today, that rationalization was valid. These days, it seems that important decisions are made by committees. Group decisions are a better way; I can't argue with that. The problem I have with it lies in the difficulty of assigning responsibility for bad or felonious decisions. The time of CEOs accepting responsibility for the actions of the company they run seems to be gone.

I have to allow one exception to the above conclusion. During the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill debacle, Anthony Hayward, the leader of British Petroleum, finally manned up and took total responsibility even though a large part of the blame rested with other companies and with the US government (lack of) regulators.

We've recently experienced many examples of CEOs of the large banks and other Wall Street financial institutions disavowing any knowledge of the shadowy world of bogus derivatives. I don't find their waffling creditable.

Nor do I find the statements of Mitt Romney creditable in his attempt to dodge responsibility for the outsourcing done by Bain and Company. The records clearly show that he was "sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer and president" during the questionable time period. The idea that he would completely disengage himself from his large investment and from his control of Bain and Company is disingenuous.

I don't understand why he doesn't simply step forward and take responsibility. Bain and Company did nothing illegal. Nothing unethical. It simply followed the trend of many other firms. The trend was encouraged by the federal government through incentatives and tax loopholes, many of which still exist today.

Instead of waffling, Mitt Romney should say "Sure, my company did that. It was the only way we could compete and give value to the shareholders back then. Was it a good thing? In retrospect, probably not. Would I do it today, if given a choice? Certainly not. The buck stops here. Now lets move on to the real problems of today."

In my opinion, many Americans would easily accept that.

Personally though, I find Mitt Romney's unwillingness to assume responsibility troubling in many ways.
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