Phil Spidell, the co-president of Silverstone Securities Inc., the most profitable securities firm in the U.S., barged raging mad into the office of Art Hoople, the co-president of the firm.
“Art, did you see the front-page article in the Wall Street Journal today about us making $68 million each last year? It’s a smear job! Since when has good old American greed not been a virtue?”
“Phil, it’s pure envy. If they had a ‘competition consultant’ in their pocket like we have, they’d be pulling in these numbers, too.”
“Yeah, Art, but we’re worth it! Silverstone had an 80 per cent jump in profit last year and a 68 per cent share gain. All we get is a lousy $500,000 salary.”
“Phil, it’s the goodies train they’re angry about. The cash bonuses – the restricted stock – the options. What’s our PR man doing? This kind of info should’ve been buried in the used tires section of the paper.”
“Art, it’s the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that feeds the media these juicy items. We should put those guys on our payroll.”
“That would be like slamming a door on our hand. I think I’ve got a better idea, Phil. I’ve just hired an ‘ethics commissioner.’”
“For how much?”
“Two million,” said Art.
“What can you get for two million?”
“That’s good money out there for them,” said Art. “I’m thinking down the line when there’s a big investigation launched against us – something like Conrad’s inquisition – about how come all that kind of money stuck to us. We tell them that the ‘ethics commissioner’ said it was okay.”
“I see what you mean,” said Phil. “If you said that you got legal advice from your lawyer – they’d probably put a bench warrant out for him.”
“Right. But an ‘ethics commissioner’ – why, that even sounds good. You’re trying to do the right thing,” said Art
“It sure sounds better than a ‘comp consultant,’” said Phil and they both laughed. “When do I get to see him?”
“He’s right outside waiting,” said Art. “He’s Rufus Jones. I’ve had him thoroughly investigated. I know the colour of his underwear. He’s a straight shooter. He’s never taken candy from a kid. Unless he was a bully.”
“I’ve got to meet this guy.” Art pressed a button on his desk and said: “Send in Rufus Jones.”
In comes Rufus Jones, a tall gangling young man who looked like James Stewart. He stood a bit awkwardly in front of Art’s big desk. “Good morning, Rufus. I’d like you to meet the co-president of Silverstone Securities, Phil Spidell.”
“Good morning, sir. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Good Morning, Rufus. You can call me Phil.”
“I’d rather not, sir, until we’ve established some kind of a relationship.”
“Okay,” said Phil. “Sit down. I presume that Art has already briefed you on what we’re trying to foresee – some problems in the future.”
“Yes, I’ve been reading your files,” said Rufus, sitting down. “I do foresee a lot of problems. May I suggest that you keep your passports in a secure location? In safety deposit boxes under assumed names.”
“Does it look that bad?” cried Phil.
“Well,” said Rufus. “I haven’t delved into the files that much so far. I haven’t decided whether it’s a bad case of corporate greed. Or outright theft.”
“I want you to know that we are respectable business people!” said Art. “We belong to some of the best clubs in town.”
“Maybe that’s your trouble. It’s your friends and the people you associate with. They’re corrupting you.”
“I resent that!” said Phil. “I want you to know that I’ve got the mayor of New York’s unlisted phone number.”
“Well, memorize it and throw it away,” said Rufus. “You wouldn’t want it found on your person.”
“You think we’re both crooks?” said Art.
“It has entered my mind,” said Rufus. “How do you explain that you both got 138 times your half-million-dollar a year salary in bonuses?”
“We earned it,” said Art.
“What?” asked Rufus, “working overtime?”
“What do you suggest?” asked Phil.
“Bora Bora,” said Rufus. “There are 37 islands in Bora Bora and you could buy a few of those islands and by the time the cops have got around to finding you – you both will have died of old age.”
“That’s a comforting thought,” said Art. “What should we do, Phil?”
“Only one thing we can do, Art. Fire our ethics commissioner! We’ve had enough of a course on ethics for one day.”
And that’s what they did.