Cleaning Up Wall Street's Mess


First it was accounting: Enron, Andersen, Xerox, plus numerous other companies that cooked their books to make them look better and -- in many cases -- to make top execs richer.

Now it's Wall Street, where during the great bull market some brokerage-house analysts hyped stocks that both they and their employers knew didn't merit so much praise -- just so everyone involved (except, perhaps, investors) could get richer (see BW Cover Story, 5/13/02, "How Corrupt Is Wall Street?").

You'd have to go back decades to find investors who can recall the last time so many first-class names in American business were tainted by so much sleaze -- and calling into question the way major companies are run (see BW Cover Story, 5/6/02, "The Crisis in Corporate Governance").

How widespread do you think unethical activity is in Corporate America? And what should be done to protect investors and head off future scandals? Those are some of the issues we address in this BusinessWeek Online Reader Survey. Please remember, this isn't a scientific poll, since anyone who wants to can participate. Still, here's your chance to register your two cents on what should be done:

On average, how would you rate the ethics of top officers at U.S. companies?

Excellent

Good

Fair

Poor

No opinion

On average, how would you rate the ethics of top officers at U.S. investment banking houses?

Excellent

Good

Fair

Poor

No opinion

In general, who do you think is most responsible for ethical lapses in companies?

The individuals involved

The companies themselves

Both equally

Neither

No opinion

Have you personally ever been in a situation where your employer required or expected you to do something you regarded as unethical?

Yes

No

Don't know

Would you personally be willing to risk losing your job by refusing to do something you think is unethical, but that your employer tells you to do?

Yes

No

Depends on the size of the reward, vs. the risk of getting caught

Don't know

What remedy do you think is appropriate for top corporate officials who use accounting tricks to misrepresent a company's performance?

A good talking to

Dismissal

Dismissal plus substantial fines

Prison

Other

No opinion

What remedy do you think is appropriate for Wall Street analysts and their superiors who exaggerate a stock's potential in order to bring in more revenues or boost their commissions?

A good talking to

Dismissal

Dismissal plus substantial fines

Prison

Other

No opinion

What do you see as the best way to ensure that companies don't engage in accounting fraud?

Remove the temptation, perhaps by capping executive compensation at a specific multiple of average pay for all employees in the

Make boards of directors liable for accounting irregularities

Enact tougher government oversight of corporate bookkeeping

Impose stiff punishments on individuals and companies that cook the books

All of the above

Do nothing: People who want to cheat will always find a way

No opinion

What do you see as the best way to ensure that stock analysts and brokerage houses don't purposely mislead investors for their own gain?

Require that the people in a brokerage who analyze stocks have no contact with those who sell stocks or do investment-banking de

Make compensation for stock analysts contingent on the accuracy of their analysis, not on the investment-banking fees their anal

Require public companies to give equal access to all qualified analysts -- not just

All of the above

Do nothing: People who want to cheat will always find a way to

No Opinion


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