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The annual Stanley P. Stone Lecture, Thursday, January 29, 11 a.m., CGS Auditorium, delivered by Pulitzer-winner Edward O. Wilson

Week of 23 January 2004· Vol. VII, No. 17

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Baltimore Sun: Guarding the long-term investments of middle Americans

The mutual fund industry, struggling to recover from scandals revealing widespread unethical practices that cost investors hundreds of millions of dollars and severely damaged the reputation of many industry leaders, recently faced fresh allegations of investor abuse. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) alleges that numerous brokerage firms failed to inform clients that they are paid by mutual fund companies for recommendations to purchase funds — a practice industry analysts say has been prevalent for years and raises questions about whether some of the nation's 92 million mutual fund investors unknowingly made purchases benefiting their brokers. The SEC has proposed new rules requiring brokers to tell their clients about such payments, says the January 15 Baltimore Sun. Further, another SEC proposal would make fund boards more independent of company management and require investment advisors to adopt strict codes of ethics to govern dealings with investors. “We have created a culture [in the industry] where you maximize your profits and the investor should fend for themselves,” says Tamar Frankel, a LAW professor of law instruction in the J.D. program and an authority on mutual fund regulation. “That doesn't work, and the danger is that the investor is, at the end, going to look for the door.”

New York Times: Lack of definite plan in Iraq similar to past shifts in American history

The American occupation in Iraq has had shifting timetables for the transfer of power and the withdrawal of troops, yet the fluctuating recovery plan follows a process similar to how the United States has handled other wars and crises in its history, reports the New York Times on January 18. The current problems in Iraq mirror some of those faced by the United States in Germany and Japan following World War II — enlisting help from former Nazis, for example — and during the U.S. occupation of the Philippines and Cuba following the Spanish-American War of 1898, when the intention was to grant both nations independence, but events prevented such an outcome. As the United States debates the rationale of the Iraq war, similarly it once debated the purpose of possessing colonies. “There was a lot of confusion about American objectives,” says Bruce Schulman, a CAS professor of history. “Were we protecting our investments? Promoting democracy? Keeping other imperial powers away? Freeing Cuba and the Philippines from Spain? There was a seat-of-the-pants approach to everything we did.”

New York Times: Mentoring builds strong companies

Corporate mentoring programs, once popular in the 1970s and 1980s because of complaints by women and minorities who were passed over for promotions, are starting up again in companies. Nearly 60 percent of Fortune 1000 companies now offer some formal mentoring, and the programs are becoming an important component in producing company leaders, says the January 18 New York Times. Kathy Kram, an SMG professor of organizational behavior, who studies mentoring in the workplace, says few of the mentoring programs of the past succeeded. “A lot of one-on-one matches did not produce the outcomes intended because executives didn't have the skills to mentor,” she says, “and mentors didn't have all the wisdom and knowledge” needed by those receiving their advice. But in the past few years, she says, because of employee demands for a diverse work force and pressure to downsize that has put a premium on retaining the best employees, companies have revamped or created mentoring programs. The retirement of aging baby boomers may leave many companies short of qualified workers as well. “With much less hierarchical stability in companies,” she says, “mentoring programs have been transformed into a developmental network where a sponsor can open doors for you.”

Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Truth in advertising

Face the Issues sounds like a new Sunday-morning political gab-fest. But it's actually a series of nonprofit ads featuring big-issue topics (abuse, self-esteem, anorexia, bulimia, alcoholism, and depression) narrated by A-list actresses — Nicole Kidman, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jennifer Lopez, and Halle Berry, among others. The 30-second spots began airing on Fox, MTV, and the WB last fall, and like many of today's public service announcements (PSAs), are put out by top-name ad agencies, who often seek such projects, according to the January 20 Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “There's less pressure [in creating PSAs],” says John Verret, a COM associate professor in the department of communication, advertising, and public relations and an ad agency veteran. “A lot of times in the ad agency business, you feel the client doesn't really appreciate what you're doing. There's kind of a distrust — people are paying you a fortune and they don't trust the thing you're doing for them. But in PSAs, the people are depending on you, and they trust you to do a good job.” There's also a new brand of public service advertising — paid, cobranded, or sponsored by corporate sponsors — such as the Truth campaign against smoking funded by the American Legacy Foundation, a public health organization founded in 1999 as a result of the legal settlement between 46 states and the tobacco industry. The ads, which feature battery-operated dolls crawling into a street to illustrate the number of babies affected by cigarette-smoking parents or teens piling body bags outside a cigarette manufacturer, are among today's best, says Verret. “They're talking to kids in their own language. The Truth campaign is written by young people, and all of the messages come from young people. They're not lies — everything can be backed up — but kids are very cynical, and [Truth ads] seem to have hit the nail on the head.”


23 January 2004
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