"As the swindle of the ages inches closer to its denouement, reporters covering financial scandals -- and a few friends -- have asked me, 'What could somebody like you have done for Bernie Madoff?'" writes crisis management specialist Eric Dezenhall. His answer is, not much: "Whereas attorneys dwell in the world of legal nuance, crisis communications is all about painting plausible alternative narratives to the allegations at hand with a very broad brush. There are, however, crimes that are so monstrous or unambiguous that there is nothing that can be done to paint them as anything but a desolate landscape." However, he thinks other financial companies may have a shot at rehabilitating themselves with the public, or at least staying out of prison. "Those facing prosecution associated with subprime mortgages may, unlike Madoff, actually have something to work with. Subprime lending was not a scheme cooked up by a hidden cabal of swindlers meeting in out-of-the-way motel rooms to fix prices, but a loudly-merchandised enterprise by publicly-traded companies that was embraced by government policy that cheered easy home ownership as an American 'right.' ... If our society wants to have a serious debate about its debt-addiction and the government policies and corporate enticements that exploit it, defense teams will argue in the media and in court, so be it. But to declare such behavior criminal because what goes around finally came around ignores the most critical underpinning of prosecutions: Criminal intent."
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