by Jim Penn
Career counseling is fun, especially when you're creative.
"Your next appointment is here. Dr. Bert Wamberly."
"Thank you. Send him in, please."
I rose to greet Dr. Wamberly. Firm handshake, good eye contact, neatly dressed; makes a nice impression.
"Please, sit down. What can I do for you?"
"I'm at my wit's end. I can't find a position. I completed my Ph.D. five years ago with honors, but it seems like I picked the wrong academic discipline. Comparative literature. I apply for about 20 openings each year without success. I need your help."
"What are you doing now?"
"Teaching part-time at a local community college and working at a polling company doing research and filing."
I took a few minutes to look over his resume, and noted that he had some sales experience. Then one of those creative surges hit me, but I realized that I had to approach this very carefully.
"Ever consider becoming an entrepreneur?"
"An entrepreneur?" he asked.
"Yes. You know, a businessperson."
"No, I haven't. I love teaching, particularly teaching literature. It's my dream."
"Well," I paused, "Let's combine the two. Why not develop a school for literary studies on the Web?"
"I don't know. I'm stone-broke. I'll need some capital. And it may not be successful." He paused. "And how many people would be interested? Literature departments aren't exactly the rage right now."
"People still like to read, don't they? Reading groups are becoming more popular. There are those National Public Radio and Public Broadcasting book programs, and many bookstores and libraries have book clubs. There's your challenge-tapping into people's love of reading and sharing their reading experiences with others."
"Well, I dunno."
"I need to know one other thing. Do you have a health problem that may flare up at a moment's notice?"
He became very quiet. "Like what?"
"Oh, a weak heart or, say, Crohn's disease?"
He responded, very softly, "Yes, I do. I have a heart condition that requires constant monitoring and medication."
I was ecstatic. "There you are. You're perfect. It doesn't matter if the business is successful. We'll…er, I mean, you should only solicit small investors for the capital needed. No investor should contribute more than $5,000 or $10,000, but it'll work. How does the possibility of successful fraud grab you?"
His jaw dropped and he clutched his chest. Oops. The heart condition.
"Are you alright?"
Recovering, he said, "Yes, yes, I guess so. Do you have any water?"
I poured him a glass, and he drank it with a tiny pill. "Do you mean, like, larceny?"
"You've got it. Now, I'm not advocating fraud from the get-go. No sirree! But if your business doesn't pan out…well…. You've got two of the three basic ingredients for a successful operation, even if the business isn't successful."
"Yup. One, only sell investments to small investors who have limited resources, $5,000 or $10,000 at most to invest. If they lose their investment, it's such a small amount that they'll never be able to get an attorney to represent them. Of course, you've got to sell to investors who never meet each other so that they don't have the opportunity to collectively hire an attorney. But, you ought to be able to handle that.
"And second, if you're ever called on the carpet, you can feign your heart condition and become hospitalized. It will work; I know it."
He got up quickly. "Are you mad? Are you crazy? I've never heard of such an idea. I came here because you were highly recommended by Jack. I should've known better. Jack's been in therapy for five years."
Grabbing his material from my desk, he ran out of the room. I looked to see if he was clutching his chest. Satisfied that he wasn't, I was relieved, but saddened to have a creative answer to his problem rejected. The intercom interrupted my thoughts.
"No go, Jim?"
"Sorry. Well, maybe your next appointment will be better. Seems he's an inventor with a clouded past."
"Great. Send him in."
Hope springs eternal. There's a good opportunity with suitable shade out there for anyone who will follow my advice. Oh, in case you're wondering, the third ingredient is a large dose of chutzpah, although significant "niceness" may also work.
by Bernard Levy
You must understand that I grew up in a household in which pets were not allowed. I once had a goldfish, but while displaying my affection I squeezed it to death. A fish out of water and all that stuff.
My first three wives introduced me to the world of dogs. No, they were very beautiful women, but they insisted on canine companionship. Scamper was a spoiled beagle mix; Valentine, a cockapoo, was equally spoiled; and Tizoc and Yaqui - the latter named for the Indian tribe - were formidable German shepherds. With no knowledge of canine rearing, maintenance, and discipline, all I could give them was love. With little experience in human rearing, maintenance, and discipline, they responded in kind. My observation of and communication with them led me to believe that I was on to something big, not on the magnitude of Fossey and her apes, but a break-through nonetheless; I was learning canine languages.
Divorces cut short my observations, but Kathy, my last wife, has provided me with the graduate-level courses I needed. She introduced me to the worlds of cats and quarter horses. For those of you who don't know about quarter horses, they are a particular breed known for their superior speed over a quarter mile. They are handsome, strong, loyal and intelligent animals. Kathy is an experienced and astute horsewoman. She understands all animals and gets the most from them, including me. She is a natural. I am not.
I do not fear horses. I attribute this attitude to both stupidity and the belief that, because I made it to my current age, I am invincible. When she acquired Cooper and Dash, Kathy informed me that she purchased the front of the animals, and the rest belonged to me. As a result I have developed expertise in cleaning stalls, picking hooves and grooming. I think Cooper and Dash respect me, but I suspect they tell their friends I am silly.
For two winters we boarded Cooper at our local fairground in which he had a stall and some outdoor space in which to exercise. When I accompanied Kathy to morning feedings on cold wintry days, I was introduced to a new world of effluvious emanations. You know, smells. Opening the doors of a thirty-horse barn at the crack of dawn was more than sufficient to wake me without any assistance from coffee. A triple shot of espresso doesn't come close to the wake-up power of those ammonia odors.
Having a captive audience gave me the opportunity to practice my skill speaking animal language. I gave the horses my full repertoire of horse-talk, chicken-talk, cow-talk, sheep-talk, dog-talk and cat-talk. Those poor horses looked at me in amazement, and I am sure they remember to this day the kook who disrupted their early morning snooze with strange sounds. Their response was similar to the British audience in the Jerry Seinfeld ad when his stage act fell flat because he didn't know British colloquialisms.
When I approached Dash and Cooper with my whinny and neigh, they turned to each other and non-verbally exclaimed, "Oh, great! Kathy's not here to feed us, and Bernie's got the job. Well, let's ignore him. He'll feed us anyway." However, if horses can't see me when I whinny and neigh, they respond. I assume it's my face they find ridiculous.
Barley, my past constant golden retriever companion, was another story. We adopted Barley when he was three. He was trained and wanted only love and affection. I don't believe there is any breed as wonderful as a golden retriever, although other owners would probably say the same about their non-golden retriever pets. Again, using my limited knowledge of dog-talk, I barked, whined, and otherwise verbally communicated with Barley many times a day, always without success. He ignored me and displayed the look dogs give when they are attempting to defecate - that soulful, expressive look that says, "This is very personal! Please don't look at me. I don't look at you when you go to the bathroom."
When I attempted to communicate with Barley, the other dogs in the neighborhood answered. This must have meant that, like horses, when they do not have to look at me, they respond as though they hear one of their kind. I take this to be success. Although it is limited, I'm trying to figure out how I can turn this achievement into a scientific paper.
Our cats reacted differently. Petey and Mousey, both feral, and BC and Monica, house cats, appeared willing to communicate with me - at times. I have mastered many cat-talk dialects and expressions; words are not meaningful in cat-talk. Sometimes we have excellent conversations; other times they assumed Barley-like or Dash and Cooper-like attitudes. Cats in the neighborhood, when they hear but do not see me, do not respond. I understand there are differences between cats and other animals which I accept.
I am continuing my experiments in human-animal communication and limit my work to horses, cats and dogs. Oh, I considered other animals, but there's only so much I will do. A neighbor wanted me to expand into goat communication, but no thanks. I have my ethics, you know. Did you know that male goats, in order to to attract females for mating, urinate on their own faces? I believe I am as open-minded as the next person, but that's taking nature a little too far. I will not be a party to any conversation with a male goat.
By Bernard Levy
(Location: Television sound stage for "Sage Advice," an adventure in culinary exploration; filmed before a live audience.)
"Good morning, folks. I'm Rosemary Green and…"
"And I'm Basil Browne. It's time to pick up that pan, unhook that pot and star-r-rt cookin'. Rosemary, would you tell our audience what this show is all about?"
"Sure, Basil. This program is different than most culinary shows. We focus our attention on men in their fifties and older. We believe there's a tremendous need to help older males find their way around the kitchen and prepare a meal without setting the house on fire."
"That's right, Rosemary. Being divorced five times has forced me to learn to navigate through the uncharted waters of the kitchen and understand how the stove and oven work, stock the refrigerator and prepare meals. But, there are many men, younger and older…"
"How old are ya', Basil?"
"I'm in my sixth decade, if you insist. Yes, I can identify with all those men who have either relinquished the kitchen work and, might I add, left the fun of cooking to their spouses or who have been told to get out of the kitchen because they're not wanted."
"I don't believe that for a minute, Basil. That's a lot of bunk. Every woman I know would gladly have her husband help her in the kitchen. But, you're right; men historically have difficulty getting up the gumption to cook or understand the art of cooking."
"Let me add one thing, Rosemary, because it's very important. Many younger males do not avoid the kitchen. Gertie, my last wife, and I had five sons between us, and all of them are proficient in the kitchen. In fact, two are excellent chefs, and all prepared some darn good dinners."
"Enough said, Basil. Let's get into today's show. Today, we're going to introduce the audience to utensils and spices. First, you'll notice that I have some cans in front of me. Although you don't need to purchase these, I find them very useful."
(Basil picks one up and reads the label aloud.) " 'Pennally's Dehydrated Water.' " (He looks suspiciously at Rosemary and asks), "How stupid do you think men are? We all know that dehydrated water comes in plastic bottles, not cans."
(They both laugh and Rosemary continues) "Seriously," (she remarks as she walks over to a table) "these are some of the utensils that you'll use in preparing meals. (She turns to Basil) "How many of these do you recognize?"
"Well, there's your basic knife, fork, spook and whoosh," (as he picks up a wire-intensive instrument).
"You mean a whisk."
"No, I mean a whoosh, because when you use it, it goes 'whoosh, whoosh.' "
(Rosemary realizes that she has to take back control of the show.) "Okay, Basil, move aside. I'm taking over." (Picking up the utensils, she continues) "This is a strainer spoon used to serve vegetables that allows liquids to drain through. This large spoon and fork are used for serving salad. These are strainers of different sizes. This little instrument is called a zester and is used to delicately peel lemons and limes for flavoring and garnishing dishes. This is a peeler. It peels the skins of potatoes and cucumbers, and this…"
"They look like forceps to me."
"No, silly, these are tongs to pick up chicken and other cooked and uncooked foods. These are individual tea strainers in case you want to purchase tea in bulk instead of tea bags, and this is…"
"Looks like a paintbrush. In case our cooking is a disaster, we can always repaint the kitchen, right?" (Basil winks at the audience.)
"Wrong again. This paintbrush-looking utensil is used to brush on butter, oil and condiments in preparing food."
(Off camera, Basil puts on a suit coat and moves back to Rosemary's side.) "And, Rosemary," (opening his coat wide to reveal inside pockets holding various implements) "these are the really important kitchen tools," (He says proudly. Holding up a utensil, Basil continues) "Everyone knows this one - even us guys - and without it, everyone in the kitchen would be lost. It's a combination can opener, church key and cork screw. And, here are the important knives you'll need, including those for paring, chopping, slicing and cutting breads and meats."
(Turning to Rosemary, Basil declares) "See, I know a little something."
"Yes, you do, Basil. You do know a little something. And, by the way," (She walks over to the back of the kitchen set and points to the corner) "that is a pitchfork that can be used for many things, including hauling out some of the manure you've been spreading around here."
"I guess you got me there. Why don't we get into some of the seasonings that our audience should know about? Rosemary, why don't we start off with your namesake?"
"Fine, we'll do just that." (Rosemary holds up a spice jar.) "This is rosemary, a well-used spice that's great for potato and white bean dishes.
"And, while we're at it, let's do your name, Basil. Basil is very versatile and an especially good seasoning for tomatoes. It can also be used in many vegetable, egg and cheese dishes."
"Good, Rosemary, but let's get into the heavy stuff now. Everyone knows about the old standards - salt and pepper. For those who are sodium sensitive, there are many good salt substitutes including something called 'Mrs. Dash.' But my favorite spice, or herb if you prefer, is garlic. Mixed with lemon juice, it's great in salad dressings and soups. As everyone knows, it's also great on pizzas, pastas and roast beef or prime rib. I usually cut up a whole garlic - it's called a bulb and …"
"Yes, Basil, I know. Have you ever noticed that when you do, your neighbors and family avoid you?" (Rosemary turns to the audience) "There are many other useful spices including oregano, marjoram and dill. Oregano is a necessary ingredient in stews and chili, but it can overwhelm other flavors if overused. Dill is particularly good in creamy dressings and works best when it's intended to be the central flavor and..."
"I know all about dill. It's excellent in tuna fish salad." (Basil chimes in.)
"Well, Basil, that's about all the time we have for today. Next week we are going to cover…"
(Basil interrupts) "What's this big flat thing here?"
"Why, Basil, I thought you'd never ask. That's a plate. Next week we're going to introduce the audience to pots, pans and tableware. Any parting words of wisdom, Basil?"
"Gee, I thought plates were made of paper. You don't have to wash them, you just throw them away. I am constantly amazed at the kitchen stuff I don't have."
"Are you sure you know your way around the kitchen? Didn't your wives serve meals on china tableware?"
"You know, come to think of it, we did have these around the house. I guess I never took the time to notice. Also, next week we'll introduce you to other items that should be part of your kitchen supplies, including Band-Aids and antiseptics. This is Basil Browne…"
"And Rosemary Green, signing off with our helpful hint for today: don't worry if the spaghetti doesn't stick to the wall when you test it; most dogs will eat anything."
"And, husbands, too." (Basil adds)
(A voice off camera) "That's a [gulp] take."
by Jim Penn
Business graduate school Professor Ferdinand Von Rumproast had been taught well by Ms. Fignuten in the seventh grade, and her words were ringing in his ears as he opened the lecture. "So, class? How much money do you think I should be paid to teach this class?"
After a long class pause, Linda Ladyfinger ventured, "What any excellent professor should be paid. $20 an hour?"
"Linda, I am overwhelmed by your generosity. Obviously, you think I'm worth an annual salary of $40,000. According to a past Parade Magazine's annual feature, 'What People Earn,' I'd be making $3,000 less than a mason in Kagel Canyon, California and $5,000 less than a physical therapist in Chicago, Illinois.
"Linda, did you base your answer on the principle of supply and demand or what the market will bear, or, perhaps, the value of my services or employee motivation and retention?"
Linda, a political science major, rose to the challenge, "Professor, it was all of those things."
"Today's lecture is on compensation and why people are paid what they're paid.
"A very wise teacher told me many years ago, 'The more visible you are, the more money you'll make.' 'Visibility' can mean many things including business success and the enjoyment that a person brings to others and often society as a whole. This would explain why Tiger Woods earns tens of millions as does Julia Roberts, Venus Williams and Martha Stewart. Oprah Winfrey's annual compensation is off the charts. Oh, I forgot to mention professional athletes like Alex Rodriguez who earns more than $21 million a year. Are they worth it?"
I couldn't resist and offered, "Yes, maybe and no. Yes, if their compensation achieves the purposes intended, namely, to help win a pennant or sell more tickets and grow an audience. Maybe, if they're on the way to achieve the goals, and part of their compensation is based upon future expectations. No, if they fail to achieve all of those things."
The professor looked at me and continued without comment. "At least the principle of supply and demand is at work. Stars in the visible arts are in demand, and superstar status is a limited commodity. It appears that the market will pay this compensation. These individuals touch the lives of many people. Can the same principles translate to the business world?
"When our economy was in a downturn and overassessment of market opportunities and failure by corporate management to make reasonable decisions were prevalent, what happened to executive compensation? Did it followed a prudent theory of compensation? No, a resounding no. Why?
"And today, when our economy appears to be prospering, does the compensation of major company CEOs follow any rational logic or reasonableness, save for a few special circumstances. No. Why?
"Gone are the days when paying a chief executive officer annual compensation of more money than he or she could ever spend in a lifetime was reward enough. Way back in 2000, Proctor and Gamble gave CEO Durk I. Jager a $9.5 million bonus even though he didn't last a year and half. Jill E. Barad received a $50 million severance package upon her termination from Mattel Inc. Xerox gave G. Richard Thoman, who had been at the helm for only thirteen months $800,000 a year for the rest of his life and similar amounts are awarded, presumably increased for inflation, today. I…"
Linda blurted out, "I'm sure that most of them did their very best and can't be blamed when the market and the economy are part of the problem."
The professor continued without responding.
"The CEO is like a conductor, even in the semiconductor industry, heh, heh. He or she is employed to lead the company, the symphony orchestra if you will. The conductor has the responsibility for picking the music and the programs and developing and directing the orchestra to play at its best. If its performances are not well received, the conductor's compensation may have to be adjusted accordingly because orchestras are primarily supported by the public and major contributors; they don't have the financial resources that businesses have.
"There is a great responsibility in managing a corporation, particularly one with billions of dollars in revenues and thousands of employees. However, their compensation should be based upon real success and sustainable growth. Recently, Warren Buffet, our current legendary successful entrepreneur and charity contributor, suggested this practice to Coca Cola's Board of Directors. It's these corporate executives' visibility that supports big bucks compensation.
And, here I stand, sweating and laboring very hard to teach future business executives, and Linda, a future successful entrepreneur, only values my services at $20 an hour.
Realizing his time was almost up, he made one last comment.
"After the first $1, $5 or even $12 million of annual compensation, how much more should a CEO or superstar get paid? I leave you with this one question, 'How much is never enough?'"
The 'ol professor did it again. What the market will bear must be tempered by the value of current services. Future performance should be compensated when achieved.
by Charles "Horse" Tsence
This column is dedicated to the love and care of animals. Contrary to what some readers thought, animals do not include spouses. Yes, I know that spouses and partners call each other "Pet," "Poochie" and even "My Cuddly Fur-Ball" (mostly directed to men), but this column is dedicated to our friends with four legs, feathers, fins, prehensile tails and the like. For questions regarding male-female relationships, I refer you to columnist Hortense "Poochie" McGoldstein, who will appear in this publication. Thank you; Charles "Horse" Tsence
Why is it that everyone I talk with about the care and training of my golden retriever and yellow lab mix emphasizes the importance of giving treats to Cal Cucumber, CC to friends and family, to reinforce training and reward him for good deeds? Shouldn't he behave without a cookie bribe? What is this preoccupation with cookies and dogs? Like Dr. Spock who advised mothers on child care, did Charlie Brown and his dog Snoopy start a fad about how important a cookie is to a dog? Please help me? Signed, Cookied-out Smith
Obviously, the conventional training techniques using reward instead of punishment have stressed you out. Before I dispense some advice, take a deep breath and settle back into your chair. It's simple once you understand what's happening.
First and foremost, everyone in the dog kingdom to whom I've spoken rewards for good behavior rather than punishes for bad behavior. Verbal and physical dog abuse leads nowhere. The secret of training with cookies is to gradually wean the dog from the reward so your command becomes a conditioned response, similar to when you jingle the car keys in front of CC; doesn't he recognize that you're going to take him somewhere? You don't need to give him a cookie then, do you? If you do, that's wrong because he clearly understands his reward. Secondly, you can start this "weaning" by giving him a cookie every other time he does something well, gradually cutting down the dosage so that a cookie becomes a single, then a tiny bite.
Since dogs don't read books, view TV or even surf the internet like humans do for fun and fulfillment, cookies play an important part in a dog's daily life. Cookies can also be offered during the day to energize CC, express affection and simply be an unannounced fun event!
Remember, training is just that. There comes a time when training should cease and the lessons learned become part of CC's daily routine. My best to CC. - Charles "Horse" Tsence
I talk to my dog a lot, perhaps too much. My wife thinks that I am becoming really weird because I prefer to talk to Sam and our cats, Mathilda and Sylvester, more than her. I overhead a conversation between my wife and one of her friends in which she is considering going to a lawyer to draw up papers to commit me to either a mental institution or a pet clinic. I simply enjoy expressing my viewpoints to animals. They don't give me any guff and just wag their tails or purr at my words. Am I in mental trouble for talking to my animals? By the way, I'm beginning to understand their languages, too. That really scares my wife. Signed, Marriage-Could-Be-in-Trouble Harper.
What is it with spouses and humankind in general? I have received mail from husbands, wives and partners who complain about the same things that you do. Also, you may wish to read the editor's essay, "The Man Who Talks Dog, Horse and Cat and the Dogs, Horses and Cats Who Ignore Him," in this issue.
First, I need to tell you that I also talk with my pets. Although animals respond first to body language and then to the spoken word, I am convinced that they do understand what we say. Okay, maybe not the words, but at least the tone and the delivery. If we view pets as a part of our family - and that's a very healthy attitude, providing it is not done to extremes - then speaking with them is reasonable human behavior. In fact, there are subjects that I only discuss with my animals.
Discussions with my pets don't adversely affect them and provide a reasonable outlet for me. In other words, these conversations assist my mental health. For goodness sakes, why are cats and dogs a favored method by many hospices and care centers to help patients cope with their illnesses and speed recovery?
I applaud you for speaking with your animals. Perhaps you ought to consider forming an organization to promote conversations with animals. People with such similar likes and tastes could make for a fun group.
Lastly, some of us just naturally talk to ourselves. Walking on the street talking to ourselves without an animal raises eyebrows and real suspicion among passersby as well as patrolling police officers. But, if you're talking to yourself while walking your dog, it's naturally assumed that you're speaking to your pet; and, if you ever go "bananas" mentally, people will probably not discover your malady for some time if it appears you're talking to a pet.
Speak to your animals; discuss mundane topics as well as world events. It's healthy and relieves frustration.
I also strongly suggest that you talk with your spouse. If she doesn't respond to your conversation, perhaps offering her a treat might help. My Best, Charlie "Horse" Tsence.
Signing off for now. Until next time, enjoy your pets and remember that not only are they members of your family, they are part of your personality.
By Jim Penn
Shallow Trachea, Deep Throat's cousin, did it again. Her call woke me from a deep sleep at 2:05 a.m. last Thursday. "Meet me in 35 minutes. Lower parking level at the Pleasure Inn on I-27. I've got some great stuff for you!"
"Gee, it's 2 o'clock in the morning, I…"
"Be there!" (Click)
If Shallow Trachea doesn't start calling at a reasonable hour, my wife is going to leave me for sure. Once awakened, she can't get back to sleep, and she was awake. I hastily told her that I had to meet Shallow Trachea in 35 minutes. She and Cheddar, my beloved golden retriever, were both convinced that I was crazy to meet this person in the middle of the night. I didn't have time to further explain; I needed to brush my teeth and put on some clothes. I left the house amid the sound of slamming doors.
I made it in 34 minutes and parked near the glow of a pipe in the darkened garage. I took a chance that it was her. "Something on the war with Iraq, I bet?"
"No, it's about the economy. Deep Throat has decided to let our other cousin, Clear Windpipe, monitor the war.
"Since President Bush is concentrating on Iraq, he hasn't paid much attention to the economy, but others have. Three new businesses are being considered which should create more jobs."
I took out my pen and reporter's notepad.
She continued, "The automotive and tobacco industries are on the defensive. Everybody's upset with the increasing cost of gasoline, and many past smokers are suing tobacco companies.
"So, they got together and are secretly working on a tobacco fuel that produces excellent gas mileage - a six-cylinder engine that could get 45 to 55 miles per gallon on tobacco fuel. They're still working on it, but the possibilities are staggering."
Shallow Trachea sensed my doubts. "Okay, I've got two more for you. The first is war-related. When we invade and take over countries - Clear Windpipe says that Iraq is the first of many countries to be invaded - a new industry will spring up with biblical connotations. We're going to collect surrendered weapons and turn them into "plowshares,' reversing the Old Testament prophesy of Joel 3:10."
"What does this have to do with job opportunities?"
"Portable smelters, you idiot! Portable smelters! Can't you see the opportunity for export to those countries? It's going to make a lot of people rich."
I stroked my chin, "Well, that could make sense. What's the third idea?"
"Ethical assistants and the manufacture of puppets. Governmental psychologists have…"
"Governmental psychologists. I never heard of them." "Since the first Reagan administration, millions are annually allocated in the federal budget for psychologists. To combat corporate management wrongdoings, public corporations will soon be required to assign ethical assistants armed with hand puppets to CEOs, CFOs, V.P.s and Chairmen of the Boards. The devil puppet fits on the left hand and a character called "Ethical Conduct" goes on the right. It's estimated that at least 50,000 people will be employed in this industry."
"You got me out of a warm bed at two in the morning for this? Isn't it possible for us to meet a little earlier and…"
She was gone. All that was left was the aroma of her pipe which I detected to be Borkum Riff.
Driving home, I mulled over her revelations. Using tobacco as a vehicular fuel certainly has possibilities, although it seems a bit farfetched. Smelting down weapons for farm implements has some good points. The use of puppets to keep ethics alive in corporate America? Oh, I guess anything is possible, but how am I going to explain this to the folks at home. Clearly, my wife will think I have a girlfriend for sure and frankly, so would I if the roles were reversed. I can't imagine what Cheddar's going to think.
By Jim Penn
MBA Professor Ferdinand Von Rumproast was all smiles as he ushered a guest lecturer into the classroom.
"Class, this is Dr. Alisa Moneypenny. As we study mergers, it's important to understand the role of Wall Street analysts in determining the value of an anticipated merger. The Securities and Exchange Commission continues to investigate conflicts of interest and dishonest conduct of analysts, even after adopting stricter rules requiring analysts to honestly believe in their stock recommendations and…"
Annie, his most vocal student, interrupted, "Professor, isn't that what analysts should do? Don't they base recommendations on their research? Why do they need a rule for doing their job?"
"You're right, Annie, but we all know what happened and apparently continues to happen. Some high-profile analysts privately made fun of the companies they touted. We know now that their recommendations compromised their research to help their employers promote certain securities.
"Of course, they should tell the truth, but they're human, which brings us to our guest lecturer. Dr. Moneypenny is a professor of human behavior, specializing in marital relationships and corporate cultures. She's here to shed light on why regulations on such a common sense area are needed. Dr. Moneypenny, please."
"Thank you, professor. Although you may not realize it, mergers and marriages have a lot in common and…"
Howard, the class comedian, raised his hand, "Are you any relation to Moneypenny, the secretary to 007's boss?"
This brought giggles from the class. Without flinching, Dr. Moneypenny responded, "She's my English cousin." The class enjoyed her humor, and she continued. "Mergers are marriages between companies and their employees, marriages of couples who have children. These business mergers are arranged by marriage counselors called investment bankers, who are paid handsomely for bringing the couple and their children together.
"These "corporate marriage counselors" have strong financial interests tied to the merger; they want the prospective merging companies to tie the knot because they and their employees make "big bucks" on the completed deals. Thus, in-house analysts often put a favorable spin on the benefits of a merger to those who need to be assured, like bankers, accountants, lawyers, customers, vendors, and the companies' children - shareholders and employees. This whole process…"
Annie, attempting to keep on track, asked, "What does this have to do with the SEC requiring analysts to tell the truth?"
"Good point. The investment bankers involved in a merger have analysts who review and inform the public on the pending merger. These analysts are often placed under extreme pressures to favorably view the merger, and they and their counterparts in the industry have a network of cooperation. In other words, they 'scratch each other's backs' to survive and achieve."
Howard raised his hand with a serious question. "But, don't these other analysts want to pick their own winners? Shouldn't they do their own research and draw their own conclusions?"
"Unfortunately, in a go-go investment climate, there are so many seemingly good investment opportunities that a 'get along, go along' mentality can replace independent professionalism. Analysts may be unduly influenced by the prospect of making big bucks, and the weaknesses in their character come to the surface."
The professor interrupted, "Aren't these regulations similar to closing the barn door after the horses have escaped?"
"Yes, but they've refilled the barn with new horses, and it's always necessary to keep the barn doors in good repair." Turning to the class, she concluded, "All good marriages need to establish important rules up front between the parties.
"Even if you know these rules, having them written and tracked makes it much easier to follow them. This helps persons, whose honesty may be subjectively influenced, to remain true to their callings. Thank you, Professor Von Rumproast, for inviting me and thank you, class, for your attention and participation."
Dr. Moneypenny received a standing ovation.