Former Enron chairman Kenneth Lay has died suddenly of a heart attack, according to news reports. David Callaway's commentary on CBS Marketwatch contrasts the polished media response to the news with the off-the-cuff grousing of the internet set.
Reaction on television was swift and gracious, with most pundits focusing on the so-called Greek tragedy of a man who rose to the sun by creating a new type of corporate empire that would change the world, only to fall to earth as temptation and corruption destroyed his dream. Reaction on the MarketWatch message boards and in the blogosphere was swift and merciless, with readers focusing mostly on jokes and nasty comments about his death. See Frank Barnako blog.
The Callaway commentary notes that "by going out on his own schedule, Lay managed to cheat government prosecutors of their biggest victory in the war on corporate fraud". He also reminds readers that however deserving a prison sentence may have been, Lay did not deserve to die. Similar sentiments were expressed by Washington Post columnist Andrew Cohen in "Lay Didn't Get Off Easy".
I think the whole thing just shows how successful the government and media were in laying off much of the fallout over the 2000-2002 market drop and struggling economy on a band of corporate criminals. These scandals always seem to surface as gloom and despair take over and the markets and economy work to find a bottom. The damage is done, but how much do we really know about all the things that encouraged those trangressions to take place?