Some companies have learned about and adjusted to the new economy. They have become experts at maximizing profits based on the deregulation of energy markets. They have learned to use computer technology and the around-the-world 24/7 financial markets to boost stock prices and their available capital, spiraling into ever deeper levels of debt.

But some companies just don’t get it. They are still stuck in an old, out-dated age. One of the most prominent of these is NORNE, a pipeline and energy company.

At NORNE, they do everything backwards. They haven’t leveraged their physical assets to get massive loans to jump into the new, lucrative energy markets. They haven’t bought out competitors and then sold them off in chunks, keeping only the most profitable markets. They haven’t set up fictitious subsidiary corporations as receptacles in which to hide their debt, inflating their stock prices through good old fraud.

Facing a possible drop in stock prices, NORNE executives took a pay cut, barred themselves from selling any stock, and encouraged employees dependent on stocks for their retirement income to sell before the price fell any further.

At NORNE, they meet with Senators and Congressmen but don’t ask them for a federal bailout. They don’t make contributions to 70 Senators and over half the Representatives. They don’t send their CEO to private meetings with the top staff of the Vice-President of the U.S. They don’t contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Republican Party’s “soft” money campaign funds. They don’t have a CEO who prides himself on his close personal friendship with the White House.

As a result, the reputation of NORNE has suffered. It has never been featured on the covers of Forbes, Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s or any other financial rag. It hasn’t been hailed as a pioneer of the latest business models. It hasn’t won awards for “innovation,” or been acclaimed as a “cornerstone of the new economy.”

NORNE hasn’t hired its accounting and auditing firm as a consultant at exorbitant rates, in order to get approval for new, innovative, creative accounting practices which, while pretending to promote the bottom line, hide what the bottom line really is.

Poor NORNE. They do everything backwards. They haven’t even gone bankrupt, imploding due to fraud, corruption, phony accounting and outrageous speculation on the “spot” energy market. They haven’t schemed to price-gouge the consumers of California to the tune of billions of dollars.

Poor NORNE. How do they expect to ever make any money, just producing and selling what they produce? In the new economy, it’s not enough to exploit workers the old-fashioned way; companies have to be creative about new methods of super-exploitation, making fictional wealth by unrealistic speculation on the stock market. That’s the way real companies make it these days!

Marc Brodine is reader in Washington State.

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