Like most high schools, mine had its share of students who were lumped into that curious demographic known as "gear heads."
These were the guys (and I say "guys" because back in the 1970s it was pretty much an all-boys club) who used to spend their lunch periods -- not to mention the hours immediately following school dismissal -- working under the hood.
And, I must admit, several of them successfully fashioned admirable rides -- gleaming, slick, curvilinear street machines cranking out power that nearly equaled Hoover Dam during an overload.
Sure as hell put my 1965 Oldsmobile 98 to shame.
But one fanatic, whom we all nicknamed "Doc," had spent nearly $1,000 on a new high-performance engine, gearbox and four-barrel carburetor to install in the hollowed-out chassis of a vintage 1960 Impala. (One need only index that for inflation to get an idea of how much that was at the time.)
After bragging to the teacher who taught automotive shop about how the finished product would nearly have the potential to fight gravity, the instructor warned Doc that performance often depends on how well the parts mesh with each other in practical application, not necessarily how great they look in the package.
Last week, I wondered if disgraced former HealthSouth chief executive Richard Scrushy ever took automotive shop.
Scrushy, as you'll recall, is alleged to have orchestrated a strategy to overstate the earnings of the Birmingham, Ala.-based health provider by, oh, $2.7 billion.
Scrushy had challenged that Sarbanes-Oxley was "unconstitutionally vague" and that it should not be used in the 58-count indictment accusing him of perpetrating that massive fraud.
In other words, Scrushy's case would be the first practical application of Sarbanes-Oxley and he wanted no part of that beta test.
Defense attorneys claimed that SOX is laden with vague phrases such as "willfully certifies" and "fairly represents" that prevent corporate execs to properly and accurately ascertaining whether they are following the law.
Not surprisingly, a federal judge shot down Scrushy's objections in an 11-page opinion stating that it was up to a jury to decide if Scrushy met the letter of the law -- in this case, Sarbanes-Oxley.
I'm not a legal scholar, but I'm fairly sure there are other laws on the books that contain similar legalese and not too many people seem to have a problem interpreting them.
The judge's opinion makes the point fairly clear: "If the jury finds that the reports did not fairly present, in all material aspects, the financial condition and results of operations of HealthSouth, the jury must then determine whether Mr. Scrushy willingly certified these reports knowing that the reports did not comport with the statute's accuracy requirements."
Scrushy's trial will probably begin shortly after the new year.
If convicted, I'm confident he'll have plenty of time to study auto mechanics, Sarbanes-Oxley and all practical applications thereof.
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