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Firing Line: Corzine's Lack of Honor

"For men will no longer trust leaders who feel themselves beyond accountability for what they do."

Read this sentence again:

"For men will no longer trust leaders who feel themselves beyond accountability for what they do."

The words identify the culture of leadership that has served the Navy for several hundred years. It's a culture the business world should adopt without exception. But of course it never will.

Take former Commanding Officer Jon Corzine. As his ship, MF Global Holdings (MF), rolled over and sank due to his own bad bets on European debt, he either gave direct orders to his subordinates to execute illegal activities -- and eventually lied to Congress under oath -- or MF Global was a leaderless organization with people doing whatever they wanted to do. Either way, there's only one person responsible for the sinking of MF Global: Jon Corzine.

Jon Corzine

Recent reports say that emails have surfaced showing that Corzine gave direct orders to use $200 million in customer accounts to cover a margin call from JPMorgan Chase (JPM) as the stern of the mighty MF Global slid beneath the waves. Under federal regulations, customer and firm money must not be comingled.

To cover his bad bets, he took money that was not his and used it to pay off his bookie. Now he doesn't know where $1.6 billion went. Must be nice to not worry about where you placed that kind of coin.

Now it appears he's going to throw his subordinates under the bus. "Since I had no personal knowledge of the issues, I asked senior people in the back office and the legal department to become directly involved." Emails show this was not the case. He gave the order.

Even if you did not, Mr. Corzine, guess what? You alone are accountable. Period. It doesn't matter if the commanding officer of a ship is sound asleep in his stateroom and the ship runs aground -- he's responsible. Period. "But I was asleep and didn't know!" Corzine might say in front of Congress, or -- we hope -- a grand jury.
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