Why I interviewed Rodney Adler
by Peter Switzer
After over 25 years writing for newspapers and appearing in the electronic media I haven’t received much hate mail. In fact, the only time I did was when I used to do daily political editorials for the then great Triple M network, which was led by Doug Mulray in Sydney and the D-Generation in Melbourne.
If I got stuck into some bludging union which had disrupted school holidays, that could bring a disgruntled truckie on the feedback line but that was the limit of the hate.
Of course being in the smart alec area of economics, business and finance, there are always people with alternative and sometimes better, as well as more informed, views. I relish the chance to be corrected and made smarter, though sometimes it hurts the old ego.
This week I have received one email asking why an “arsehole” like Adler was being interviewed on my show and that he should be “rotting in jail". One letter writer, while praising my show, pondered why I let someone like Jordan Belfort — the author of The Wolf Of Wall Street — on my show to talk about lecturing Aussies after he had proven he was a man of such low ethics.
On my editorial comment last night, I made the point that Rodney Adler did over two years in jail and now is a free man after serving his sentence dished up by our legal system — arguably one of the best in the world.
I thought it was an Aussie tradition to at least hear someone out before making a judgement on them and that’s why I wanted to hear what Adler had to say. He reminded us he was not jailed for causing HIH to collapse. He was a director but there were bigger fish in management who made the mistakes that KO’d the failed insurer.
Sure, he sold assets of questionable assets to HIH but the cost of those were very small compared to the billion dollars of debts the business had when it went belly up.
Of course, he sold FAI to HIH and that was part of the debt story but this was on-sold to Allianz and so it remained an asset of value.
Two reasons he was jailed was because he lied to a journalist, reasons many of my viewers would have been surprised to hear. Clearly, Adler was wrong in numerous dealings that could have misled the market and that’s why he was jailed but let me remind you many businessmen have misled the market and haven’t been locked up.
Let me make this clear, I don’t want to defend Rodney Adler but I do want to hear him out. I know I do play the educator in the Australian business media and I love that role considering I started out as a teacher and economics lecturer at the University of New South Wales. However, I’m also in the news game and Rodney Adler is news and it’s not up to me to pass judgement — that’s up to you, if you want to. My interview of Rodney gives you a chance to do so.
On another level, the interview teaches investors a critically important point for investing in public companies and it’s about forming an opinion on the calibre of management. This is a maxim of Warren Buffett and if you ignore it, you do so at your peril. I hope the interview makes investors think deeply about who leads the companies they are putting their money into.
Finally, I do like stirring the pot at times to make sure complacency doesn’t work against the best outcomes for the economy and society. That’s why I think a bank inquiry is a good idea. Joe Hockey, who is a great bloke, shot from the hip when he criticised the banks but he thought it through and his nine-point ideas in relation to the banks made a bit more sense.
Our banks are well regarded internationally and are great investments but it doesn’t mean that they are perfect and are always fair. An inquiry could prove they’re under funding strain or maybe not!
As William Blake once said: “Without contraries there is no progression”.
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Published on: Friday, October 29, 2010blog comments powered by Disqus