Amos and WorldCom

‘ Hear this, you that trample on the poor and take from them their jobs and retirement funds. You say, ‘When will the Sabbath be over so we can make the measure small and the payment great, and practice deceit with false accounting?'. Therefore, you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, who push aside the needy: You have built huge estates of hewn stone, but you shall not live in them. You have your stock options, but you shall not cash them in. For I know how many are your transgressions, and how great are your sins—you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and push aside the needy in the gate."

No, Amos didn't quite say that, but if he were in America today, he probably would. The Hebrew prophet's condemnation of the corrupt wealth of his era (with only a few small word changes) applies quite dramatically to our current situation. Amos lived in a time not unlike our own—one of great prosperity, but prosperity built upon corruption and oppression, leading to a great and growing inequality. (Check out Amos chapters 5 and 8.)

Every day now the news brings reports of more and more corporations revealed to have been "cooking" their books—using accounting tricks to mask expenses, hide losses, and inflate profits. When the truth is revealed and investigators finally step in, thousands of people are left jobless, or without their retirement funds, while top executives walk away with millions.

The recent list includes: Adelphia Communications, the 6th largest cable provider in the country, which filed for bankruptcy in June after having inflated its revenue and earning statements, with $3 billion in off-the-books personal borrowing by the founding family.

Xerox, which was fined $10 million to settle fraud charges by the SEC in April after having improperly recorded $6.4 billion in revenue.

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 2002
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