Enron’s End Run—It’s over. Nearly three years after the collapse of Kenneth Lay’s internally robbed Texas energy company, its former chief executive officera campaign contributor to and friend of President Bush, who called him “Kenny Boy”—has finally been indicted and led into court in handcuffs.
He is free on bond. He has pleaded not guilty, and his trial is still to come. Whether Lay’s deaf-and-dumb defense, that he was unaware of the corporate chicanery of his company’s top executives, will keep him out of prison seems doubtful.
Martha Stewart has now been sentenced to five months in prison, followed by five months of house arrest, a $30,000 fine and two years of supervised probation for lying to federal investigators about a stock transaction. Her manipulative stockbroker, Peter Bacanovic, got the same sentence.
Stewart’s prison time was the most lenient sentence possible under federal guidelines and was postponed to allow her to appeal. Support for her included hundreds of letters to the sentencing judge, a noisy “Free Martha” courthouse demonstration and a surge in the value of her publishing company’s stock.
Still to come is the retrial of the two top executives of Tyco International, charged with looting $600 million from the company. Their first time in court ended in a mistrial.
To Your Health?—Schering-Plough, one of the major pharmaceutical manufacturers, is now expected to plead guilty to criminal charges that it cheated Medicaid by bribing doctors to prescribe its drugs at high prices. That was reported on page one of the New York Times.
But we don’t see much—if any—of this kind of medical-debauchery excavation in what passes these days for news of corporate corruption. Only the unrelenting newsletter Corporate Crime Reporter tells it all.
It says that a group of radiologists—you know, the X-ray and MRI guys—will pay the U.S. Treasury $2.53 million to settle charges that they made false claims for health care reimbursements from Medicare. An X-ray office whistleblower turned them in.
For years the Radiology Regional Center (RRC) in southwest Florida billed Medicare for costly procedures not ordered by the patients’ doctors. Now comes the payback. Under the False Claims Act, which protects and endows whistleblowers, a chunk of it goes to a former woman RRC employee who told on them. For telling the government the truth, she gets $443,378 of the $2.52 million payback.
The F Word Again—This time it turns out to be Fox News, not Vice President Cheney’s dirty-mouth expletive vilifying Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) for his criticisms of Halliburton, Cheney’s pre-veep employer, the Texas oil corporation that still gives him money.
On the heels of Michael Moore’s bash of Bush in the popular movie Fahrenheit 9/11, Robert Greenwald, another independent producer of filmed documentaries, has released the movieOutfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism. It is an exposé of the right-wing Fox News Channel, owned by the conservative media kingpin Murdoch.
The filmmaker says that the Fox channel, whose slogan is “Fair and Balanced,” is actually “a network that follows the party line of the Bush administration” with “ranting and raving pseudo-patriotism.”
His film shows some disgruntled former Fox News employees, one of whom says they were not so much working for a news-gathering organization as “we were for a proponent of a point of view.”
The activist group MoveOn.org says it convened 2,500 “house party” showings of Outfoxedacross the country on July 18. Whether Outfoxed reaches as many viewers by this non-theatrical method of distribution as Fahrenheit 9/11 does remains to be seen; but you can order a VHS or DVD copy for home use for $9.95, plus $3.50 for shipping, at www.moveon.org/outfoxed.
Much of the detailed research and broadcast monitoring that supports the Outfoxeddocumentary came from the non-partisan, non-profit organization Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, known as FAIR. Its devastating study of a top Fox program, Special Report With Brit Hume, can be seen here.