Comment: Hands’ scapegoating won’t win him fans

Nov 05, 2010
<p>There is too much passing the buck in the corporate world</p>

As President Obama and his party lick their post-election-battering wounds, the president may be reflecting on the naivety of his preelection promises two years ago.

For all the trappings of the Oval office and the prestige of the White House, the role of president can be a thankless task, in part because presidential power just isn’t what it's cracked up to be.

Once the embarrassment of a crashing defeat dies down, however, the president may win some plaudits for his humble admission that he took ‘direct responsibility’ for his administration’s lack of progress on the US economy.

This contrasts sharply with Terra Firma chief Guy Hands, who just won’t be blamed for his ill-advised takeover of beleaguered music industry giant EMI. Hands has been testifying to a New York jury amid claims his Citigroup adviser David Wormsley misled him over the deal.

As Judge Jed Rakoff told the two sides on Monday evening: ‘Get real. The question in this case, after all you lawyers have worked it over, is going to be whether they believe Guy Hands or David Wormsely.’

The decision – made by a jury of ordinary New Yorkers, many of whom may be short on sympathy for either half of the ludicrously wealthy pair – went against Hands on Thursday.

‘You don’t pay a 1.5 percent management fee to someone just for him/her to make a decision based on what his/her banker says; that’s just ridiculous,’ one insider was quoted as saying. And I have to say I agree. What is the point of incentivizing managers and rewarding those in senior positions if those same managers then acquiesce to the instructions of their corporate finance advisers?

If there was one lesson I thought the financial crisis taught us it was about taking responsibility. Scapegoating is so pre-2007.

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