Business, Finance & Economics

Accountability varies around globe

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At least one aspect of the economic crisis has made many Americans downright mad: The targets of their anger are the CEOs who not only failed to accept responsibility for the poor performance of their companies; they actually reward themselves -- the bonuses, corporate jets and office makeovers just keep on coming.

Compare that with what happens in say, Japan. Recently, the head of a Japanese bank resigned and the bank apologized because of an expected loss of $2 billion dollars this fiscal year.

"New York Times" correspondent Ken Belson tells "The World's" Marco Werman that corporate culture in Japan has a different approach and standard for accountability: "It's a very tightly scripted scenario in many companies. The president or CEO or chairman of the board will step down. They'll bow very deeply in front of the cameras and they'll step aside. What's unique here compared to some of the excess we're seeing in America, is that they often don't lose their pension, sometimes they don't even lose their jobs per se, they may be turned into an advisor of some long lost committee that's off on the side..."

The corporate culture differences between the U.S. and Japan go beyond executive accountability, according to Belser: "For starters ... the difference in the way executives in Japan are compensated versus the way they are here in the states. The salaries that they earn are typically fifteen times more than the average salary of the average Joe in the factory; whereas in America it's somewhere around 200 times. They do get some perks -- they'll get a company car, their pension payout is quite generous -- but nothing like the $40-million-dollar bonuses or the corporate jets ... in fact, corporate jets are fairly rare in Japan."

Belser tells the story of how one Japanese corporate head apologized for his company's failure on a nationally televised news conference: "He started bawling his eyes out on tv, and among the things he said then, and it was really quite shocking was: 'Please anybody, just take one of my workers, two of my workers, ten of my workers -- they're the ones who are really innocent in all this; I'll fall on my sword, but really it's the workers that need to be taken cared of.' I can't think of a single example of when that's happened in America."

PRI's "The World" is a one-hour, weekday radio news magazine offering a mix of news, features, interviews, and music from around the globe. "The World" is a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston.

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