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Our White-Collar Terrorists

July 27, 2002

Re "Adelphia Founder, 2 Sons Are Charged With Fraud," July 25: John Rigas and his two sons are charged with stealing $1 billion. Retirees have lost their investments, workers have lost their jobs and creditors are left holding the bag, hoping to get a few pennies on the dollar. The Rigases are looking at 15 1/2 to 19 1/2 years, if convicted. What do crack addicts in New York City get? What about the "three strike" petty-theft cases in California? Is there a two-tier system of justice in a democracy?

Stewart Spivak

Camarillo

*

If the Bush administration really wanted to make a statement to restore confidence in Wall Street and corporate America, we'd see former Enron head Kenneth Lay in handcuffs. Hundreds lost their jobs and retirement accounts but not a word about his greed and wrongdoing. Maybe the Texas oil connection is too deep.

Eileen McDargh

Dana Point

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Re "It's About Time for a Little Payback," Commentary, July 22:

While we were distracted by "outside terrorists," our very own American-made, home-grown white-collar terrorists were cleaning out our wallets, destroying our children's college funds and gobbling up our retirement nest eggs for their own personal gain and greed. How can they look at themselves in the mirror?

Oh, yes, this entire group should "pay back," dearly, for the rest of their lives, since they've ruined the lives of so many. Forcing them to do time (after many years in prison, of course) in the "CriminalCorps--From the Greedy to the Needy" is a marvelous idea.

Sandy Tofflemire

Lawndale

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Jennifer Grossman's slogan needs some modification. Instead of "From the Greedy to the Needy" it should be "From Greedy to Needy," or "Poverty as Punishment." A walk in the park watering the flowers is no punishment. Leaving these people in the environment that sheltered them by having them brainstorm for corporate solutions is no deterrent. The usual Club Fed prison sentences coupled with Grossman's community service idea does not serve justice. The specter of 20 years to life served in poverty, for those found guilty, would be a powerful incentive for them to more carefully consider their actions.

Michael Glenn

Calabasas

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Grossman's opinion shows the root cause of the problem. Somehow, there's a societal disconnect between street crime and white-collar crime. If a thief is convicted three times in California, it's a mandatory life sentence in state prison--even though the dollar amount may not be great and there were very few people directly harmed. However, if a corporate executive thief manipulates the books, enriches himself and destroys a company, its employees, its pensioners, its shareholders, its creditors and investors in general to the tune of billions of dollars, Grossman recommends he do community service.

I doubt anyone from Enron, WorldCom, Arthur Andersen or ImClone will ever serve hard time.

Herb Adelman

Studio City

*

The only consolation I have, as a small-time stock investor watching my money disappear, is the emerging realization that my fellow small-time investors across the aisle must be reaching the point of view that "all Republicans are created equal--but some Republicans are more equal than others." (With apologies to George Orwell.)

Judy Scott

Los Angeles

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Since Alan Greenspan and President Bush report that the economy is basically healthy and even ready for more expansion and the drag on the stock market is the doing of only a few corporate offenders, this might help restore investor confidence: Have all Fortune 500 chief executives sign a statement assuring investors that no accounting fraud or other wrongdoings have occurred on their watch and publish it in all major U.S. newspapers. And if not, why not?

Bob Myers

Rolling Hills Estates

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In "Connect the Dots for a Disturbing Picture" (Opinion, July 21), Todd Gitlin displays a commendable lack of moral relativism and some impressive intellectual clarity. ("The people in power represent an economic clique whose interests are only superficially tied to the well-being of the country as a whole.") The ghastly events of 9/11 seemed to have temporarily blinded our populace to the exceptional corruption (even by today's standards) of the current administration. Sadly, it is only by having our retirement pockets so egregiously picked that we have begun to come to our senses.

Wake up, folks. The crony capitalism and economic terrorism of fat cats like Vice President Dick Cheney, Bush, Army Secretary Thomas White, Sen. Phil Gramm and others pose a far greater long-term danger to our republic than Osama bin Laden and his demented minions.

Wendy Kramer

Valley Glen

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