Are fun and social responsibility risky business practices? The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission apparently thinks so, as AES Corp. discovered when it went public, last summer. AES, a five-time Inc. 500 company based in Arlington, Va., had sent the SEC a proposed prospectus that, among other things, discussed the company's four core values -- fun, fairness, integrity, and social responsibility. They were presented in the company description. The SEC said the information was in the wrong section; it belonged under "Risk Factors."

AES executives didn't argue. On the contrary, they made a point, in their road show, of emphasizing these "risks." "We think it's very important that potential investors understand the values are primary," says executive vice-president Robert Hemphill. "Maximizing shareholder wealth is not a goal of the company." Evidently, investors were not deterred. AES's stock offering was oversubscribed five and a half to one.