Corporate crooks must be punished

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 9, 2003

The stock market's free-fall has leveled out, a bit. Still, confidence in our economy has seen better times, and one of the reasons for this mess are the corporate scandals and accounting crimes committed by white-collar crooks who cooked the books of their companies. This was done, ironically, because they wanted to look good for Wall Street investors.

How are they looking now?

President Bush and Congress have talked tough about harsh penalties for the corporate criminals who have wrought this damage on their employees and their investors. Many Enron and WorldCom workers have lost their retirement nest eggs, and many more investors who trusted the stock market are now losing money.

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A scheming crook in a business suit is no less a scheming crook. In fact, these kinds of crooks are worse than many because their actions have affected so many people in such a devastating way. For justice to be done, those who have perpetrated these crimes should get severe criminal penalties. Corporate America is apparently too obsessed with profits and earnings projections to worry about ethics. The best government can do is scare them straight: If you are caught, you will get no lesser penalties than drug lords and bank robbers.