Where Have you Gone Aaron Feuerstein? The Means Being Justified By The End?

Posted on August 30, 2010

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Who was Aaron Feuerstein? How about Maldin Mills?

Quickly now, who was Kenneth Lay? How about Enron?

If you have to pause to think for a moment before saying to yourself “who is Aaron Feuerstein?,” but could recall Kenneth Lay or his company Enron without hesitation, then you may have already answered the question regarding what it takes to leave a lasting impression.

For those of us who require a gentle prodding, Aaron Feuerstein who after “a fire ravaged much of his Maldin Mills factory decided to shun the idea of resuming his operations overseas, and rebuilt the mill in the same Massachusetts community where it had stood.”

He then made the decision to continue “to pay his thousands of idled workers — whose families were dependent on his factory — for the months that passed until it was operative again.”

Now let’s look at Enron for a moment.

The employees found out at 9:30 AM that the company was going bankrupt and that they were all being laid off. They were then given 30 minutes to leave the building.

In all, 20,000 employees lost their jobs and medical insurance, receiving a paltry $4,500 average severance pay. The top executives for the company were paid bonuses totaling $55 million.

Finally, and this is perhaps the most odoriferous behavior on the part of Enron executives . . . while they had begun unloading their stock “pretty heavily” according to a C-SPAN2 segment, they “led the employees to think that they should keep buying stock!”

Even given the distance of years from the original event, one is still inclined to feel the need to take a shower after reading the Enron story.

So why do we so readily recall the Kenneth Lays, Jeffrey Skillings and yes, even the Andrew Fastows of the world while the Aaron Feuersteins are either forgotten or possibly relegated to the “remember that company?” recollection?

Now here is an added kick in the proverbial shins; in a January 26th, 2010 article titled “Is Enron’s Jeffrey Skilling a 2010 Scottsboro Boy?” Skilling prevailed in challenging the constitutionality of the legal doctrine used to convict him in Houston for his role in the collapse of energy giant Enron.”

Specifically, the Supreme Court, which chose not to overturn his conviction but instead as the article’s writer Sherrilyn A. Ifill informed us “punted the case back to a lower court to determine whether Skilling should go free,” unanimously “held that the federal statute criminalizing “honest services fraud” was meant to target the receipt of bribes and kickbacks.” It was not, the highest court in the land ruled, the intention of congress when the statute was created to be extended to include “misrepresenting the financial health of a company (Enron in this instance) to shareholders.”

Skilling Facebook Page proclaims his innocence.

The irony in the Enron and Maldin Mills sagas is that both company’s ultimately went bankrupt.

In the case of Feuerstein, whose company manufactured the popular Polartec and Polarfleece “climate control materials used by companies like Lands End and L.L. Bean in their winter clothing,” mounting debts coupled with his benevolence towards his employees were cited as reasons for the company declaring Chapter 11 in November 2001.

Here of course is the million dollar question . . . if you have a son or for that matter a daughter, which one of these two individuals’ ethics would you want them to have?

I bet the second time around you probably liked your answer a lot better than you did your response to the first question.

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Posted in: Commentary