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Bad Bosses: How Inept Execs Got Away With Mismanagement and Scandal In 2012

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A look at the corporate leaders who got fat bonuses stapled to their pink slips.

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The example of former CIA Director David Petraeus is proof of that, she says. On November 9, the same day that Petraeus resigned his post after it was revealed that he had an affair with his biographer, incoming Lockheed Martin Corp. (NYSE:LMT) CEO Christopher Kubasik was asked by the company's board of directors to resign for having a "close personal relationship" with a subordinate at the defense contractor. Kubasik acquiesced, but otherwise walked away from the incident unscathed while also receiving a $3.5 million separation payment.

Meanwhile, Petraeus faces possible charges should ongoing investigations turn up evidence that the former four-star general began his affair with Paula Broadwell prior to his retirement in August 2011, Military.com reports. Petraeus, who served in the military for 38 years, is entitled to a pension of about $220,000 per year, according to CelebrityNetWorth.com.

Maximum punishment for military officers found guilty of adultery is dismissal from the service, forfeiture of all benefits, including pensions, and imprisonment for up to a year, Yale Law School military-law expert Eugene Fidell told Time.

And the double-standard is especially evident within companies. If a middle-level executive had violated Lockheed's ethics polices in the same way that Kubasik reportedly did, "he would not get a $3.5 million payout," Minow says, even though some federal rules require companies to enforce ethical standards equally at all levels.

Minow says the disparate standards between company and government officials may stem from Americans' impatience generally with the pace of government. Additionally, she says, "It may be that we feel a more personal and direct connection with government officials who work for us."

Still, even critics like Minow concede that corporate governance is much improved from 25 years ago. And that, says Patricia Harned, president of the Ethics Resource Center, a nonprofit research organization based in Arlington, Va., is proof that corporate executives are indeed being held accountable for their actions.

"We certainly see CEOs who are being removed from their positions because they've had morality challenges or they haven't actually accomplished what is required of them as a leader," Harned says.

Corporate executives are also being held accountable by shareholders and public opinion. "CEOs can certainly take a beating from the public when there's not satisfaction with their performance," she says.

Further, there's a stronger tone from officials in Washington these days, Harned says, "in terms of their desire to hold individuals accountable, if there's criminal activity that's taking place in a corporation."
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