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King Features Column

(This is delayed a week after its newspaper release because the deal with the syndicators says so)

       CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
       FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MAY 18, 2012
       What a feel-good story: 52-year-old Yugoslav refugee Gac Filipaj, who scratched out a living as a janitor at Columbia University for a dozen years, graduated there after studying the Classics. When he wasn’t washing and waxing the floors, he was reading Latin and Greek, and now he has an Ivy League degree.
       He says he plans to pursue a master’s and maybe a doctorate, which shows just how smart he really is. It’s not all that clear what kind of employment his elite education would get him. Chances are the only answer would be janitor.
       Or CEO.
       Certainly he could do no more harm than many who run our mega corporations and banks -- even the few sharp tacks like Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, whom President Barack Obama calls “one of the smartest bankers we got.” The Obamas, it turns out, keep some of their fortune at his bank. But even the celebrated Dimon couldn’t stop his subordinates from making trades in derivatives that he himself called “stupid” and “sloppy” to the tune of $2 billion losses admitted to thus far.
       Let’s give the man some credit. At least he had the good sense to admit the obvious, particularly since the FBI is investigating whether crimes were committed. And of course, the fill-in-the-blank lawsuits have been filed.
       That’s because it wasn’t Jamie Dimon’s billions his minions were blowing. As usual, they were gambling with what everyone calls “OPM” -- “other peoples’ money,” squandering funds from investors.
       It so happened a stockholders’ meeting had been previously scheduled for just days after the embarrassing debacle became public. Dimon did manage to defeat attempts to strip him of his chairman title. He also escaped with his full $23 million annual salary intact, which the more naive thought he was paid to make sure such disasters don’t happen.
       It’s no wonder some have begun describing the “too big to fail” financial giants as “too big to manage.” At most of these behemoths, the top executives continue to receive hugely bloated pay packages as if their ineptitude and scandalous policies don’t seem to matter one bit.


       It’s easy to understand why they are fighting so hard against regulations meant to make them accountable for meltdowns. Dimon has been the most public; the others usually hide out while their lobbyists do the sneaky dirty work of undermining any reform.
       At the very same time Chase was trying to clean up its mess, Yahoo, the once-proud Internet giant, was stepping right into another one. CEO Scott Thompson decided he needed to resign. He was Yahoo’s fourth top honcho in the past five years. It turns out his diagnosis of thyroid cancer may have contributed to his decision, but the main factor was the disclosure that he had embellished his academic resume. By the way, among the board members who also are exiting is Patti Smith, who headed the search committee that vetted Thompson. Duh.
       Even the attorneys are biting the dust, the ones who charge stratospheric amounts for twisting the law into knots and enabling these executives. The legal eagles at Dewey & Leboeuf are looking like dodos as their once-
prestigious firm is collapsing under the weight of ridiculously bad management and excessive compensation. Those partners who can are abandoning this ship for other jobs, taking their exorbitant billable hours with them. The others are out of luck, including most of the associates and the real brains -- the secretaries, paralegals and, yes, the janitors.
       Maybe they will take a little heart in the story of fellow custodian Gad Filipaj. If he decides he wants to try to reach the corporate heights, he has exactly the right background. What’s needed is a sweeping cleanup.
       © 2012 Bob Franken
       Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.


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