Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek

 

When you're been already branded as the America's most hated CEO, the only way is up.

Unless, of course, you rather like your new brand image and are happy to play it for all it's worth.

This is the Martin Shkreli dilemma.

The former Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO may, indeed, be a frightful example of haughty, gouging leadership.

He seemed to double down on that during a Congressional Committee hearing to discuss insanely high drug prices. He was there to offer his expert opinion.

He is something of an expert, because he raised the price of a drug called Daraprim from $13.50 to $750, this earning him worldwide derision -- which, of course, also conferred on him celebrity status.

When members of Congress asked him simple questions, however, Shkreli pleaded the Fifth Amendment. (Well, he has been charged with fraud.)

Cue righteous horror and disgust from the congresspersons.

How could this little tyke treat them this way? Who was this putrid worm who dared to utter: "I intend to follow the advice of my counsel, not yours"?

Shkreli interspersed his lack of cooperation with smirks and snorts that suggested utter contempt.

Surely he couldn't be behaving so superciliously. Perhaps he was just nervous.

Not quite.

For he wafted to Twitter to offer an actual unscripted translation of his gestures : "Hard to accept that these imbeciles represent the people in our government."

You can still hear the pained outcry of those who couldn't believe such oafishness, can't you?

I wonder, though, whether Shkreli was merely echoing what so many entrepreneurs and CEOs actually think -- that government is a bloated, pork-filled, self-regarding, myopic, regressive, do-nothing gabhouse that contributes a vast zippo to America but wind.

After all, business people pay off politicians to either prevent them from passing laws that don't suit business or to "persuade" them to pass laws that do.

Donald Trump is merely one who gleefully explains how it's possible to get politicians to, say, come to your wedding.

Worse, though, haven't business people become so exasperated with government that they think the only way to change it is to actually get elected themselves?

How many times have we heard candidates explain that government has to be run like a business and they are the fine business people to do it?

How often do you think that executives on Wall Street and Silicon Valley titter into their breakfasts as they watch congresspeople decide they'd rather close down the government than, you know, make a positive, helpful decision?

You might find Shkreli odious, despicable, and frightfully worm-like. It's not difficult.

But isn't there at least a certain honesty in his contempt?

And isn't it slightly better television than watching Mark McGwire repeat over and over again that he's not here to talk about the past?

That's what we care about the most, right? The optics.

Published on: Feb 4, 2016