The way federal prosecutors, the FBI, and the SEC clamored to get on camera when Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli was indicted on fraud charges, you’d think they were bringing down a Bernie Madoff or Al Capone. Nope. It was just a little hedge fund fraud over a few million bucks.
While Shkreli was targeted for brazenly raising prices on a life-saving drug that his company had bought the rights to, he appears to be little more than an eccentric schemer who makes high-risk bets that he generally loses and then covers up with another scheme.
So maybe the guy is a slime-ball, but he’s just a small-time crook … allegedly. Still, all the bureaucrats and regulators had to grandstand. Why? To show they’re doing their jobs, lobby for bigger budgets, boost their political aspirations, and most important, because Hilary Clinton drew a big fat bulls-eye on the guy’s head.
A couple of days earlier, I watched a similar scene unfold on camera. The entire L.A. school system had been shut down over a terrorist threat that turned out to be a hoax. A million kids got an unexpected play-day over an email. That’s right. One anonymous, uncorroborated email.
But if it turned out to be real, God forbid, heads would roll, so all the bureaucrats had to cover their precious asses. And every L.A. official from the mayor and the chief of police to city council members and all the various superintendents and presidents of the school district squeezed together like they were posing for a class picture.
When Toyota’s good name was dragged through the mud by a host of regulatory agencies and congressional committees, every democrat in Washington stood up and complained that the accelerator pedal disaster could have been caught sooner if the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wasn’t starved for funding.
After Toyota voluntarily recalled millions of vehicles, it turned out that, except for a couple of poorly positioned floor mats, there was no systemic problem – mechanical or electrical – just a lot of idiot drivers hitting the accelerator pedal when they meant to brake. But when that news came out, you could have heard a pin drop in D.C.
Funny how GM somehow managed to avoid a brand crisis after a decade-long cover-up of an ignition switch flaw that killed more than 100 people.
Had it not been for a 2013 lawsuit involving a woman who died in a Chevy Cobalt accident, there’s a good chance that fatal flaw might never have come to light, there would have been no recalls, and millions of drivers would still be at risk of their power cutting out while driving at highway speed or navigating a dangerous turn.
Why the duplicity, you ask? Washington bailed out GM. Now how would that look for the cameras? Best to lay low on that one.
Next time you see a gaggle of bureaucrats jockeying for position to grandstand on air, know exactly who they’re doing it for. Themselves.
Image Flickr JD Hancock