In Japan, CEOs take shame seriously. They're expected to work late, dedicate their entire lives to the good of a company, and try to ensure that they don't work their employees to the point of suicide. And when Japanese CEOs make mistakes, they're expected to make a big show of tearily flogging themselves in public (figuratively). But here in America? CEOs get to screw up as bad as they want and walk away with millions, with nary a tear nor a nice tip to the bellhop on the way out the door. Stan O'Neal! Bob Nardelli! Dennis Kozlowski! CEOS in the USA need to STFU and get way better at public humiliation. They problem is that in this country, CEOs are only too happy to trade the scorn of the public for a pile of money. Most Americans would do the same! (Unless the revolution comes, in which case it's up against the wall with all of you). So you can bitch all you want about golden parachutes that can top $100 million for executives who didn't do shit except lose shareholder money the entire time they were employed, but that CEO will chuckle to himself, have his flack issue a statement, and then go enjoy his millions and millions of free dollars on a private island somewhere, full of untold numbers of prostitutes. So America has worked out its own ways to humiliate these CEOs without their consent. The media trumpets their salaries all over the place, hollering louder about them the worse their company does. Their kids are shunned and forced to go to special, expensive schools. Actually, nobody sympathizes with CEOs except for other CEOs, and politicians. Now, however, every company is doing poorly. So our system for determining what executives to focus our class rage upon is broken. The American public is spread too thin. That's why we need to import some sort of Japanese-style public shaming ceremony here. CEOs can apologize for their sins and wallow in misery, we can all enjoy the schadenfreude, and then we can all focus our allotment of hatred where it belongs: on Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. And the CEOs will join us. America is unity!
Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, the domestic queen's massive publishing and television conglomerate, has just announced that its CEO, Susan Lyne, has (ahem) "stepped down." Replacing Lyne will be two co-CEOs—an equivocation that often signals that a company was not well prepared for an executive transition. Lyne came on as head of the company when Martha Stewart went to jail in 2004, and has presided over a big drop in MSLO's stock price. But while her departure may have been inevitable, it's not necessarily a productive move. The magazine industry is in an irreversible decline, and no number of firings will change that fact. Sorry!