As someone who used to cover business and the economy, I was impressed by Best Buy's willingness on Monday to lay its dirty linen out for review.
The results of an internal report found ex-CEO Brian Dunn had engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a female subordinate and that company founder and Twin Cities business icon Richard Schulze knew about the allegations months before they were exposed but didn't do the right thing and take it to members of the board. It cost Schulze his chairmanship.
What I didn't realize yesterday is that Best Buy has a chief ethics officer, Kathleen Edmond, with her own website where she explores corporate ethics.
Nothing publicly from Edmond so far on Dunn or Schulze, although there's a recent post on how a friendly internal competition at Best Buy went bad.
The competition was relatively informal and the activity tallies were largely based on the honor system (i.e., employees could designate which activities "counted" toward the contest). After the fact, a quick review of the data revealed that contest participants, as a group, had obviously inflated their results. Although it was an internal contest and there was no effect on the numbers we report to the public, nonetheless it was a concern.I went looking on Edmond's site for something in April after Dunn resigned and the Star Tribune reported that Best Buy was investigating Dunn's conduct with the female employee.
When pressed on the issue, many participants claimed to know of co-workers who included non-qualifying activity in the contest tally but, of course, no one admitted to doing so themselves.
Nothing then on her website either, although in late April she wrote a post asking, "Are We Blind To Our Own Ethical Choices?" where she riffed off an NPR interview of an upstanding businessman who eventually committed fraud.
Here's hoping Edmond follows her company's lead and writes something smart and insightful about the ethical choices of Best Buy's leadership -- and what role she'll play in remaking the culture there.
-- Paul Tosto(2 Comments)
Posted at 11:47 AM on May 15, 2012
by Paul Tosto
Stories and commentary in the New York Times this week focusing on student loan defaults paint a grim picture of the fallout from heavy borrowing for school.
All true, but what to do about it?
Among all the Times commentaries, my favorite came from Kevin Carey, policy director with the research group Education Sector. He argued persuasively that the colleges should bear more responsibility for student debt problems.
Colleges get paid upfront. Since the large majority of student loans are issued by the federal government, bad loans leave students, parents and taxpayers footing the bill. And while federal law penalizes colleges with unusually high loan default rates, the provisions are so lenient that only the most egregious bad actors are ever caught. Essentially, colleges have carte blanche to put your tax dollars at risk.What if the college itself had to reimburse taxpayers for part of the losses? They might think twice before offering students financial aid packages that are like weapons of personal financial destruction.If it's any consolation, it used to be much worse. Interest rates and defaults on student loans were dramatically higher 20 years ago.
"While rates have risen considerably, they are still well below rates of the early 1990s. Rates as high as 20 percent were not uncommon, particularly among public and for-profit, 2-year institutions," the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis reminded me recently.
There are a number of reasons for the higher default rates back then, including much higher interest rates on loans. But a bigger reason is simply that they could be higher--there were no penalties on institutions whose students defaulted.That changed in 1991, when Congress required that colleges keep cohort default rates below a particular threshold--35 percent initially, 25 percent eventually. Failure to comply over a 3-year period meant their students would no longer be eligible for federal student aid.Here it is from the Fed in chart form:
By 1997, more than 1,000 educational institutions nationwide had lost eligibility.
-- Paul Tosto(3 Comments)
Posted at 3:00 PM on May 15, 2012
by Paul Tosto
North Dakota's transformation as an oil producing state is no secret. But when you look at the historical data, it's breathtaking how rapidly things have changed.
"North Dakota passed Alaska in March to become the second-leading state in crude oil production, trailing only Texas, according to officials from Alaska and North Dakota ... a dramatic rise for a state that was behind seven other states in 2006," the Fargo Forum reports.
Texas remains the nation's number one oil production state by far, pumping about 50 million barrels a month. Alaska for decades was comfortably number 2. But check out the trend lines below.
Here's a closer look at the past three years
Advances in drilling technology and methods, together with the rising price of oil, have made large-scale drilling profitable in North Dakota.
Times are great now in North Dakota and the money's rolling in. But there's also a lesson in the trend lines to remember: It doesn't last.