French Finance Minister Herve Gaymard resigned from his post this week after public disclosure that he, his wife and eight children had been enjoying a luxury flat (apartment) in Paris that cost 14,000 Euros/month (that’s about $19,000/mo), paid for by the French taxpayer.
A few months ago, this same Minister Gaymard told popular Paris Match magazine that he lived humbly because “I don’t have the money.” Meanwhile, however, it turns out that our humble former public servant owns two houses, two flats and a garage outside Paris, as well as a luxury flat in Paris itself that he rents out for 2,300 Euros/month.
I can’t help but think about the flap over former GE CEO Jack Welch’s severance package that included perquisits that make this snit look like nothing. And Welch isn’t alone, almost all modern CEOs seem to believe that they are entitled to whatever they can extract from the company and bury in a financial filing or otherwise hide from public scrutiny. There’s a reason that the Sarbanes Oxley corporate finance reform includes clauses like “no personal loans to executives”, isn’t there?
So what could greedy, entitled CEOs learn from former minister Gaymard?
How to own up to your mistakes and recognize that there might be a more ethical and professional way to live your life. As Gaymard states it, he’d been “tactless and committed a serious error of judgment” and that he would “pay back any expenses incurred”.
I don’t want to paint Gaymard as a saint, because he shouldn’t have been exploiting the situation in the first place, an unforgivable ethical lapse, but to take personal responsibility for the mistake, accept the consequences, and try to make things right with the people who have been exploited, that’s all admirable, and frankly personal responsibility is a trait we see too little of in modern society.