Sex scandals and the financial world
Public figures have to expect private scrutiny as part of the job.
By any empirical measure, it's been one heck of a season for sex scandals.
First, the head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, is yanked out of the first class cabin of an Air France flight and charged with sexually assaulting a chamber maid at the New York hotel where he'd been staying in a $3,000 a night suite.
Then, former California governor and movie star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, admits he fathered a child with his family's housekeeper of 20 years. And, by the way, that's what's behind last week's announcement of his separation from his wife, Maria Shriver.
Only a few weeks ago, Canada's relatively sedate federal election campaign was rocked by revelations that one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's most senior advisors was involved with a former Craigslist call girl and had lobbied Cabinet ministers on files in which she had a business interest.
Not long after that, his relationship with a woman who had been deported from the U.S. on prostitution-related charges, also became public.
Last summer, the CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Paul Hurd, abruptly left the company over alleged improprieties involving a former soft-core porn actress.
Obviously, the example of Mr. Strauss-Kahn, who apparently has a well-established reputation for sexually harassing women, is extreme — not to mention criminal. However, the scandal has rekindled the debate about that fine line between personal privacy and public accountability for those in certain lines of work.
It's not unreasonable to hold to the line that personal relations between consenting adults are nobody else's business. Arguably, our expectations of all public figures have now been warped by the tech-enabled culture of too much information and celebrity stalking, crossing the invisible line between personal and private issues.
Unfortunately, it's not quite that easy. And the absence of really clear disclosure rules is part of the reason: publicly-held companies are legally required to disclose "material information." But does that include a CEO's penchant for cross-dressing or a health issue? As the ultimate boss of senior management, do shareholders have the right to know — and to judge — every detail about the stewards of their investment? How much scrutiny is too much?
That doesn't apply only to extra-marital affairs or DUI arrests. Apple recently came under massive criticism when it was evasive about the health problems of company founder and leader, Steve Jobs.
When the company didn't provide any comment when Mr. Jobs was clearly ill, it allowed rumours and speculation to fill the vacuum. That created uncertainty in the market and the share price was negatively affected.
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