Tuesday, July 22

The Italian Job

There are a couple of financial scandals going on in America (just a couple?!) that have piqued my interest these days. I'm talking about American-born Angelo Mozilo, former head of the largest home lending Company, Countrywide Financial, and Italian Raffaelo Follieri, better known as Anne Hathaway’s ex.

Now, I’m not implying that the Italians have cornered the market on graft and corruption – just one look at the litany of Wall Street scandals, Enron, Worldcom, lobbyist money, sex scandals, Watergate, Ponzy schemes; even the Kennedy’s got their money and status thumbing their noses at Prohibition. Taken together, they add credence to the Italian proverb, tutto il mondo √® un paese (the whole world is a village).

One must consider, however, that Italy’s Parmalat did outdo them all in terms of sheer chutzpah, amounts involved and levels of ‘creative accounting’ so intricate it would make Daedulus’ Labryinth look easier to get out of (btw, he was Sicilian).

But one thing’s for sure: where these two guys messed up is that, if you’re caught in America, you risk getting the book thrown at you (just ask Martha Stewart). Generally speaking, there aren’t many politicos lined up to save your skin (unless you’re Ken Lay, Mark Rich or Scooter Libby), or no judge who's going to turn a blind eye. Follieri’s life sentence would set a nice example for more than a few white collars thinking they can get away with it.

In Italy, these guys may not have gotten busted in the first place (it would all depend on who they had in their pocket). Or, if they did, they may have gotten off lightly, or, the trial winds on so long, they get off from sheer boredom. Or, like (the likely outcome of) Parmalat or even the Tangentopoli folks -- they get a slap on the wrist and are told not to do so again. Their families get to keep the change hidden away in outposts like the Cayman islands or Lichtenstein.

America seems to have the market on Corporate scandals, only because they get caught. This marked difference with Italy was aptly put to me one day by a sociologist: While in America, we have corrupt individuals -- in Italy, it is the entire system which is corrupt.

I'll keep you posted.

3 comments:

CH said...

Thanks for commenting! First, woo! It has always been my dream to travel down the Nile as well, but I was like you... just didn't feel safe. Recently I was reading about safety levels in Egypt simply b/c I still long to go there. After reading some current articles from Frommers as well as the US travel board's information on countries, we discovered that much of the risks were isolated and while horrible they mainly occurred on the border areas and not since 2006. (We will NOT be visiting the Sinai region.) The gov lists Egypt now on the "good to travel to" while still, of course, taking "proper precautions". They also stated that in terms of everyday crime, Egypt was listed as having a low, mostly non-violent rate while Italy was listed as having a "moderate rate of violent crime, some of which is directed towards tourists." (The reason we even were looking at Italy rates was b/c we were considering going back there since it isn't too pricey and we love it!) So after reading that, I was like "Well, I felt TOTALLY safe in Italy so I feel like we will be fine in Egypt too..." Plus, who knows, it may become unsafe to travel there again and I don't want to miss my chance. I am not dumb though... I will be keeping up with safety issues and will, of course, be very aware while there.

So if you do want to visit Egypt, go now! Apparently, you will be surrounded by the English as they love to go on holiday there, fun! And if you are still nervous being an American... just tell them you are from Canada, eh? =p

PS: Just started reading your blog and love it!

Anonymous said...

amen, sister.
and its been that way for 1000s of years.

anna l'americana

Dave514 said...

Francesca:
Italy's corruption must be first considered as to whether there's an Italy in the first place.

In the Renaissance, it was at best a collection of City States plus the Papal States and what become known as ,the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. In summation an historian described it as, " Rich, divided and weak" ---nothings changed.

Four Regioni are controlled by either by the Camorra, Mafia, 'Ndrangheta, or Corona Sacra Unita. These again are directly represented in the central government or have direct access to it.

It's safe to quote my historian friend that , "Italy is an idea yet to be manifest!" Good luck to all who sail in her.


Davide

P.S. Did you ever view any of my videos?