Saturday, May 31, 2008
From Boardroom to Courtroom to Newsroom: The Media and the Corporate Governance Scandals, by KATHLEEN F. BRICKEY, Washington University School of Law, was recently posted on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Enron and its progeny spawned an unprecedented amount of press coverage. To its credit the press has, in the main, acquitted itself well. But media coverage of the ensuing investigations and trials also has raised a host of provocative questions about judgment, professionalism and restraint. Using five high-profile criminal trials arising out of recent corporate fraud scandals as a springboard, this article provides a critical analysis of how media coverage - and defendants' efforts to spin that coverage - can influence the course and outcome of a trial. Some, but not all of the mischief originates with the press. Ever conscious of the potential for media coverage to alter the outcome, defendants in high-profile fraud trials have increasingly orchestrated costly multi-media public relations campaigns that demonize prosecutors, witnesses, and the press to exonerate themselves. The five case studies in the article highlight growing points of tension between the media and the courts and provide a concrete context for exploring the extent to which we should be concerned about the potential for aggressive media coverage and media manipulation to undermine the legitimacy of the courts, to affect the outcome of lengthy criminal trials, to play on the passions of the community from which the jury will be drawn, to subvert journalistic credibility and independence, and to invite more restrictive court-imposed rules governing media coverage of high-profile trials. The article concludes that if the press is to effectively perform its watchdog role, it should be mindful of the need to watch itself. Three appendices at the end of the article provide a media-centric postscript on coverage of the corporate governance scandals.