Tip of the Iceberg?

While waiting for my plane out to Salt Lake City, I struck up a conversation with a viewer. Actually, he struck up the conversation with me.

He said that he hoped all the Enron guys would rot in hell.

"Throw 'em in jail and throw away the key," he said.

"And the rest of all those CEO bums too," he added. "They're all crooks."

"All of them?" I asked.

"Every single one," he replied.

I politely told him that I disagreed.

Enron was a big mess, but a unique mess and hardly a typical mess.

As no less than the Wall Street Journal reported this weekend, far from leading to a cascade of criminal convictions for corporate America, what's remarkable, is that it hasn't.

Sure, there were Adelphia Communications and Tyco and Global Crossing. But when you think about it, that's it.

They are a handful of companies out of thousands of publicly listed ones, thousands more private concerns. Each were their own sicknesses — no signs of rampant illness.

My conclusion: Most companies are soundly run, most CEOs are decent and most enterprises aren't run like criminal enterprises. And the ones that are, are eventually caught.

Sarbanes-Oxley came about as a means to police all, but I think it's left more companies burdened by the suspicion of guilt than guilt itself. So they pay the enormous legal and bureaucratic costs not to be another Enron — even though the vast, overwhelming majority are not.

The fact is, there will always be crooked players in a system, Sarbanes-Oxley or not. The reality since the fall of Enron is the amazing fact they are so few. And the good guys — who get no press — are so many.

The guy at the airport didn't want to hear it. I guess being an optimist, but I was duty-bound to say it.

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