Saturday, March 7, 2009

?Bankruptcy? -- Transparency in Life and Government

[WARNING: Rant on]Now, I recognize that there are nuances of the law that the average person does not and cannot understand. Sometimes (most of the time?) I think lawmakers and courts do that on purpose so that they have job security. I'm one of those average people. But, this article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch this morning, caught my eye:

Filing: Peanut Corp. has $4.8 million in debts, $11.4 million in assets

The infamous Peanut Corporation of America has filed for bankruptcy. According to the article, the Peanut Corp. of America has $11.4 million in assets and only $4.8 million in debts. That seems clear and straight-forward -- PCA has more assets than debts, in fact, right at 2.5 times as much in assets as debts.

Then, I looked up the definition of bankruptcy. The Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary lists this as one of the meanings: utter failure or impoverishment. That also seems clear and straight-forward -- bankruptcy means you have nothing, you can't pay your debts.

What I fail to understand -- in my simple, straight-forward way of looking at the world -- is how PCA can file for bankruptcy.

First of all, the evidence seems to point to PCA suffering from a bankruptcy (i.e. utter failure) in ethics (along with the regulatory agency that was supposed to keep a check on cleanliness) in its production of peanut food products. Now, that hasn't gone to trial, yet, so they have not been proven guilty...yet.

Second, how can they file for bankruptcy and thus, again in my simplistic view of things, avoid the responsibility to pay some of their debts? They sell the assets and pay their debts. Sure, the company would cease to exist, its investors would lose their money, and management would be out of jobs -- of course, those are the very ones who had the social and ethical responsibility to ensure that PCA produced a safe product. Workers (you didn't really think I would overlook them) would lose their jobs and many people had to deal with salmonella but they should be reasonably compensated from assets that remain after debts are paid. Granted, the $6.6 million of assets remaining after debts are paid won't go far, but it should be used to help those who are most hurt by PCA's (investors and management) irresponsibility.

What would America be like if our leaders used simple, common-sense language -- i.e., meant what they said? What would America be like if our laws were simple and easy to understand? What would America be like if Americans just did the right things? I could go for that! [RELAX: Rant off]

Sort of reminds me of the Sprint Nextel commercials on how things would be if firefighters were in charge:

Run, live, and rule well, y'all,

PS -- I realize that if anyone actually reads this, there's a good chance you'll disagree with me or, maybe even more likely, you'll know much more about the intricacies of the law than I do. Feel free to comment.
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