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10 December 2023

Lessons learnt from the gullibility of the human race

By David Robertson

It never ceases to amaze me just how gullible we humans can be. Remember Bernie Ebbers, Kenneth Lay and Jeff Skilling? They were the infamous names of the last stockmarket rout when their companies (Worldcom and Enron) were exposed as frauds.

These were swindles on a giant scale and we all promised that we would learn our lessons and never be caught out again. Ooops. Clearly irrational exuberance has clouded our judgement again because another crop of outrageous scandals is just emerging.

Bernie Madoff has humiliated the rich and famous of New York and Ramalinga Raju and Satyam have done the same in India. And I have no doubt there are quite a few more yet to be exposed. The reason we fall into the schemes of such men is that we really have very little knowledge of what goes on around us. We have to take it on trust that companies operate lawfully and in the interests of shareholders. In fact, they often operate in the interests of management and it takes extremely tough boards, regulators and accountants to ensure that the good of the many does not take a back seat to what is good for a few.

Hopefully, we will learn a few more lessons this time around and those responsible for protecting investors will be given greater power to do so.