In this interview which first appeared at Alternet.com and was reposted at Salon.com Jim Chanos, famous for shorting Enron and highlighting the fraud at the firm, talks corporate fraud generally and crony capitalism. He makes a number of assertions worth considering regarding the dishonesty on Wall Street, and explains why short sellers are vital to the marketplace. He explains that all the big fraudsters taken down in the past 20 years have been taken down by short sellers or journalists or both, not the regulatory agencies.
“I point out to my class that in 1998 there was a survey– Business Week (which is owned by McGraw-Hill) and McGraw-Hill (which also owns Standard and Poor’s) had a conference for the S&P’s 500 chief financial officers. They asked these chief financial officers if they’ve ever been asked to falsify their financial statements by their superior. Now, the chief financial officer’s superior is the chief executive officer, or the chief operating officer—basically the boss. It was a stunning—of course anonymous – survey. 55 percent of the CFOs indicated they’d been asked, but did not do so. 12 percent admitted that they’d been asked and did so. And then 33 percent said they’d never been pressured to do that. In effect, only one third of the companies in the S&P’s 500 at that time did not have a CEO or COO try to pressure their financial officer to falsify financial results.
So this is agency risk writ large. Investors need to know that.”