I am a bit surprised there has not been more attention paid in the blogworld to the recent demise of Italian food group Parmalat, one of the country’s largest businesses employing more than 35,000 people. The firm, due to problems centering around its debt and some allegedly dodgy investment decisions, is on the brink of falling down a deep black hole.
Now, there are certain specific features of the story that pertain only to Italy and Italians. But more broadly, this saga also reminds us of how, in the higher reaches of the corporate world, accounting standards are falling short. In fact, there appear to be no standards at all.
I am sure readers will recall how the American model of capitalism was mocked for its supposedly laissez-faire nature at the time of the Enron, WoldCom and other collapses. A certain smug tone was detected in the pages of European newspapers. Well, now we have a prime example of Enronitis in Europe. Of course, European business shenanigans have been legion – witness the Byzantine affairs of French banking group Credit Lyonnais, for example. And the accounting practises of the European Commission are also a wonder to behold.
Maybe Parmalat will, however, instill a little humility among editors of European business news channels. There’s always hope.