Tax Cheats: EU vs USA

BBC NEWS | Europe | German ex-high-flyer in tax trial

The attitudes toward white collar crime could not be any more different on the two sides of the Atlantic. The Deutsche Post executive who defrauded the government out of €1 million has faced two years of public humiliation and is now facing rather harsh consequences in a German court.

In contrast, American executives (such as, oh, Dennis Kozlowski of Tyco International) face little public criticism, enjoy lavish lifestyles, steal multitudes (hundreds of millions of dollars in some cases) more than this German executive did, and often manage to beat the rap and to go free.

The United States may well be the perfect place to be an executive, then. The combination of a flexible justice system, plastic and virtually nonexistent regulation and an ignorant shareholder population that is content being enamoured with its executives rather than being demanding of its executives creates the perfect environment for signing contracts that lavish golden parachutes upon even the most incompetent executive.

And, of course, if the executives fail especially miserably, they can always count upon their political pawns in the government for welfare, handouts and bailouts. This may very well explain why General Motors may be a hopeless cause. Absent all motivation to perform well, it should come as no surprise that many corporate executives are not performing at all. Therefore, after driving GM into the ground, what motivation could Rick Wagoner have to save the company?

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