The real bummer [of the Wal-Mart] is that all of this alleged misconduct has happened in recent years—that is, after the Sarbanes-Oxley Act was passed, after the Justice Department began enforcing the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, after Hewlett-Packard fired its former CEO for inappropriate contact with a female employee, after Satyam imploded in fraud and disgraced “India Inc.” All of these companies had (or still have) top executives who knew what misconduct looked like, and had crystal clear examples of what the consequences would be.
And yet, here we are, staring at a whole new generation of misconduct. You have to wonder whether any of the work that ethics and compliance officers have done in the last 10 years makes much difference.
It also makes you wonder why there are people, such as The New Yorker Who Must Not be Named, believe so passionately in the ability of regulators and the efficacy of regulation. Increasingly, it seems obvious that regulation serves to severely burden the honest while doing little to deter the dishonest.