Al Lewis has produced a delightfully wicked roll-call of crooked corporate captains, following from the hapless case of Capitano Francesco Schettino, the Italian who actually managed to “roll” the $450 million cruise shop Costa Concordia. (I thought that only happened to SUVs on icy Vermont roads, not ocean liners! Bravissimo, Capitano!)
In case its life at WSJ.COM is too brief – I mean, I thought Rupert Murdoch was buddies with these guys – the article is reproduced below in its entirety, properly attributed, for posterity. I hope none of them had MBAs. What? Most of them? Hilarious!
O Captain! My Captain!
AL’S EMPORIUM, JANUARY 22, 2012, By AL LEWIS
The world’s been too hard on Capt. Francesco Schettino, calling him “Captain Coward” and “Chicken of the Sea” when he has performed as well as many others at the helm.
Yes, he ran aground a $450 million cruise liner, lost lives, abandoned ship and turned Carnival Cruise Lines into a circus. It was an accident.
Plenty of other captains have boldly steered into perilous waters, failed to see rocks and crashed. They’ve also lost footing on shifting surfaces, only to land in lifeboats, leaving others to drown. This has been a regular headline for decades.
Capt. Jeffrey Skilling abandoned ship to spend more time with his family, months before Enron hit bottom. He said it was an accident, too.
Capt. Bernie Ebbers said he didn’t have any idea how phony accounting entries got into his ship’s log. As captain of WorldCom, he couldn’t be bothered with minor details like accounting.
Capt. Dennis Kozlowski liked Italian islands as much as Capt. Schettino. He threw a $2 million birthday party for his wife on Sardinia, using money he looted from his shareholders at Tyco International.
Capt. Richard Fuld steered Lehman Brothers into a swampy lagoon of subprime debt. He, too, hit an uncharted rock. Or, at least, it wasn’t on his chart.
Capt. Jimmy Cayne was reportedly smoking weed and playing cards as Bear Stearns sank.
Capt. John Thain took care of his crew at Merrill Lynch, pushing through $3.62 billion in executive bonuses as his firm washed up on the Bank of America.
Capt. Angelo Mozilo wouldn’t go down with his ship. He unloaded more than $200 million in stock options before Countrywide Financial capsized, and he left the wreckage to shareholders.
Capt. Bernie Madoff sure had a funny way of financing his yachts. He even named one of them “Bull.” People somehow thought this was a reference to bull…markets.
Capt. Allen Stanford, the world’s second-greatest alleged Ponzi schemer behind Mr. Madoff, is slated for trial this week. He took over the island nation of Antigua with his offshore banking empire, Stanford Financial. Some even call him the “Pirate of the Caribbean.”
Capt. Tony Hayward went to a yacht race as BP’s rig was spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico. He expressed the same thought other disgraced captains must have: “I want my life back.”
Capt. Daniel Mudd of Fannie Mae and Capt. Richard Syron of Freddie Mac overloaded their cargo hulls with junk mortgage securities. They didn’t need to hit a rock. They sank themselves.
Capt. Jon Corzine sank MF Global so deep they can’t seem to find all of his ship. Not even the Bermuda Triangle can make $1.2 billion in customer funds mysteriously vanish.
Capt. Ben Bernanke has launched QE1 and QE2 and he may soon christen QE3 in the Federal Reserve’s fleet. He wants these bond-buying programs to bail out every foundering captain on the sea.
Unlike many other captains, Capt. Schettino wasn’t risking it all in a self-dealing bid to get stinking rich. He probably wasn’t drunk like the captain of the Exxon Valdez. He was just trying to show people a good time by skimming by a beautiful island.
He then did what every other captain does in an unimaginable crisis. He learned he wasn’t as fearless as he’d pretended to be. He panicked. He slipped. He somehow landed in a lifeboat. He probably wishes he hadn’t. But it’s not like he jumped with a golden parachute.