By John Dickerson
Scott Coles paid $375,000 to have a benefit lunch with Donald Trump, according to an April 1, 2007 article in the New York Post. The money was no April Fool’s Joke. It was one day in a lifestyle of uber-wealth that ultimately sunk the company Coles’ inherited from his dad, Mortgages Ltd.
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On June 2, 2008, Coles killed himself. His company has since filed for bankruptcy, leaving about 2,700 Phoenix investors without their money – totaling about $1 billion.
Coles' story is a local representation of a greater national trend. Greed is alive and well among American CEO’s, and it’s a key suspect in the sudden collapse of massive financial institutions across the country. Columnist Nicholas D. Kristof of the New York Times documented this trend in his column today.
He points out that the CEO of Lehman Brothers collected about $500 million in compensation during the 14 years it took for the 158-year-old company to go bankrupt under his helm. The same story will likely be repeated time and again as the United States slips into a market correction that forrmer Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan recently described as a “once-in-a-century” crisis.
On Tuesday, Ward Harkavy of the Village Voice compiled a nice summary about the CEO greed behind insurer AIG’s collapse. The abundance of wealth now in our country means most investment victims won’t be going homeless or unfed – no matter how deep the market crashes. And yet, the sad irony is that bankruptcies cost Coles, and other business people who've committed suicide, their very lives.