Martha Stewart is not Enron, as one of her supporters told a reporter after the domestic diva had been found guilty of obstructing justice and lying to the government. True, she is not. But the four guilty verdicts against her show that the public — at least 12 members of the public — don’t care how much she made or lost by selling her ImClone stocks that fateful day. They only cared whether she lied about it and tried to fool them in the courtroom.
Whatever the perceived motives behind the aggressive case made against Stewart, the government has the right and responsibility to go after someone it believes has broken the law. Had officials let Stewart slip by for the paltry amount she made on the deal, it would have sent a message to corporate America that the big guys could lie about the little things and get away with it. Now the message is: Lie to us at all and we’ll get you no matter what.
That message will mean so much more if officials back it up with the same aggressiveness toward those alleged offenders at Enron, WorldCom and other companies who destroyed peoples’ retirement plans and lives. The little guys will be watching.