Bad news, good news
The worst ethics breaches, best moral deeds of 2005
By Thomas Kostigen, MarketWatch
Last Update: 12:03 AM ET Dec. 29, 2005
SANTA MONICA, Calif. (MarketWatch) -- Maybe next year people will have learned their lessons from the ethical breaches committed this year, transgressions across politics, the media and big business.
If anything, 2005 was a master class in veiled morality, obfuscation and wicked manipulation. Still, many people forged an admirable path. Here are my picks for the year's worst and best ethics awards.
The 10 worst ethics breaches
1) President Bush -- for manipulating the law to allow spying on American citizens.
2) Former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay -- for a rationalization campaign that tries to convince people he is not the face of corporate corruption and should not go to jail.
3) Bob Woodward -- for hiding the identity of a source from his editors at the Washington Post while colleagues holding the same information are sent off to jail.
4) Michael Brown, former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency -- for blaming Hurricane Katrina failures on New Orleans residents themselves as well as Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco as well as New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin as well as ...
5) Barry Munitz, president of the J. Paul Getty Trust -- for alleged abuses of nonprofit funds to enhance his lifestyle and for miring the art world in scandal over stolen antiquities.
6) Wal-Mart -- for its unfair labor practices and false promises of corporate welfare.
7) Exxon -- for ignoring shareholders' resolutions calling for it to admit carbon emissions lead to global warming (and to effect change that would promote alternative energy).
8 ) Televangelist Pat Robertson -- for, under the guise of God's wrath, calling for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and telling a small Pennsylvania town that by opposing "intelligent design" it could fall victim to disaster.
9) American Red Cross -- for making us skeptical of charitable giving again after some of its workers bilked money from Hurricane Katrina victims.
10) New York City Transit workers -- for staging an illegal and limp strike during the holiday season, costing businesses and the government $1 billion and leaving people to stand out in the cold.
The 10 best ethical displays
1) The American People -- for donating and volunteering more to Hurricane Katrina victims on the heels of the massive outpouring for tsunami relief and proving how deep the American spirit of generosity can be.
2) Bill & Melinda Gates -- for showing us how mega money can be spent to change the world for the better, today and for future generations.
3) The New York Times -- for owning up to its journalistic breaches and launching, albeit not perfectly, a query into its internal controls and editing procedures for all of us to see and read.
4) Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq -- for being stalwart against ugly criticism of her war protests and exemplifying free speech in America.
5) Eliot Spitzer, the New York Attorney General -- for taking Wall Street to task for general malfeasance and specific accounting fraud, which cost investors billions of dollars.
6) CalPERS, the California Public Employee Retirement System -- for holding corporations accountable to their shareholders and using its power to lobby for better standards on myriad issues from climate change to executive compensation levels.
7) Saddam Hussein testifiers -- for risking their lives to speak out against the atrocities and despicable human rights violations the former Iraqi president presided over during his regime.
8 ) Tyco -- for turning its corrupt corporate policies around by revamping the way it conducts business and centering its operations on a far-reaching code of ethics.
9) George Clooney -- for exhibiting the power of Hollywood to tell a great story that has a meaningful message in both "Good Night and Good Luck" and "Syriana," and his hope to keep showcasing media that matters.
10) General Electric -- for the launch of its "Ecoimagination" division and modeling for other companies how saving the planet can still bring a profit.