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Big Fish, Little Fish - Both were Financial Sharks

Lee Walton

The recent, nearly countless string of Palter & Chatter articles about Charleston’s latest Rogue-of-the-Year, Al Parish, begs comparison to similar financial scams that have graced the pages of other, albeit nationally prominent, newspapers in recent years. One article of striking applicability appeared in the June 4, 2006 edition of The New York Times. This story summarized the infamous deeds of none other than Enron’s Ken Lay and contained a quote by Samuel W. Buell that seems to sum up not only the many transgressions of the late Ken Lay, but Al Parish as well, “… at the end of the day, the machine just ended up being a coffee maker.”

What Mr. Buell was describing was the Enron financial machine and the “…most basic of childhood transgressions” at its core. Mr. Lay chose to lie – lie to his shareholders, his employees and his banks - and those were his crimes. Lay was convicted of multiple fraud and conspiracy charges because he purposefully misled investors about Enron’s performance. In short, Mr. Lay was found in a court of law to be a convicted liar. From all that has been written about Big Al, it seems that both may have been cut from the same bolt of greed, contempt and unsaddled arrogance.

Upon reading the Times article about Ken Lay, one can come to very similar conclusions about Big Al and his much hyped financial investment model. His Parish Economics, LLC, was not a delicate, innovative investment engine of profitability; it was a hodgepodge of confusing, often impenetrable and convoluted smoke and mirrors activities apparently designed so their creator could live “high on the hog” while simply stealing money from his investors.

As is so often the case with men having contempt for their fellowman, unconstrained greed and overreaching arrogance bring them down. In the end, after all the court room drama and startling revelations in the Palter & Chatter, we may find that the only difference between Ken Lay and Al Parish is the number of zeros in the millions they each conspired to steal from their investors. However, in this comparison, its hard to say who’s the bigger shark.

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