Crooks go home*

August 14, 2002

By Greg Freiherr, Editor, gfreiherr@cmp.comWe all have favorite jokes. One of mine is about the chairman of the board who's looking for a new corporate president. He invites

By Greg Freiherr, Editor, gfreiherr@cmp.com

We all have favorite jokes. One of mine is about the chairman of the board who's looking for a new corporate president. He invites the director of engineering, vice president of marketing, and CFO to apply. In the interviews, he asks each for the sum of one plus one. The selection process is delayed because the engineer insists on running a sophisticated algorithm and the marketing VP must convene a focus group. Both come up with "two." The CFO, however, takes very little time to render his answer. Having heard the question, he rises from his seat, closes the blinds on the windows, locks the door to the office, and says, leaning close to the chairman, "I can make one plus one anything you want it to be."

I told this joke a couple of years ago at the RSNA meeting to a former CFO who became the president of a small company. The two of us laughed and laughed. I told it again a couple of days ago. As before, I got a chuckle with the engineer's use of an algorithm and a chortle with the marketing director's use of a focus group. But the punch line went over like a lead balloon.

"Greg," my audience of one said. "I don't think you should tell that one any more."

Strange how things can change. You can't pick up a newspaper or watch Dan Rather without hearing about corporate fraud. When Congress asks Martha Stewart to testify about her alleged insider trading of ImClone, you know it's gone too far.

I never really paid much attention to Martha Stewart, so I can't say much about Martha, the person. But whenever I saw her on TV or in an ad, especially when she was holding a pie, she just looked so . . . wholesome.

Her troubles are annoying for me, because I once owned ImClone. I got out before the nosedive, but I wasn't so lucky with Enron. I'm considering redecorating the walls of my bathroom with Enron stock certificates. I'm told they have other uses in that room, as well.

But seriously, I've learned an important lesson from the last few months--the importance of keeping your sense of humor. It's also been comforting to note that I cover one of the few industries that has been free from scandal.

Personally, I think it's because of the caliber of people. Now if I could just get some of these guys to lighten up a bit.

*The rest of you folks hang in there.