By DAVID MOON, Moon Capital
January 28, 2007
An interesting juxtaposition this
week pointed out different ways to define the term 'public service' and
balance an individual's civic and private investments.
On Monday, amid the
tumult of the Knox County term-limits saga, TVA director Bill Baxter left the
federal agency (annual revenues: $9 billion) after serving five years in the
post, all but six months of them full time.
That made eight years of
public service for Baxter, the other three as the state's Commissioner of
Economic and Community Development. Assuming a typical 74-year male life span,
that's more than 15 percent of his adult life working for the
That would be enough for me. I
applaud the guy for returning to the place that creates almost every necessity
and luxury we enjoy: business, the private sector.
In real life, Baxter is the chairman
of Holston Gases Inc., a 50-year-old, family-owned distributor of medical,
industrial and propane gas.
Our Founding Fathers assumed that it
would be the rare public servant who would ' and should - make a career of
working in the government. They further assumed that most officials would
recognize this and self-limit themselves.
Madison and Jefferson did note that
some legislators would be so excellent that their constituents shouldn't be
denied the opportunity to return them to office. My good friends include many
long-serving public officials, at all levels of government. Knox County is about
to lose some effective, honest, dedicated public servants.
But I'm not sure if
Madison and Jefferson would have anticipated that 90 percent of elected
officials would have fallen into this extraordinary
Hallerin Hill once asked me what
qualities I thought would best serve an elected official. I offered two: wisdom
assumes that the agency in which he has invested a significant portion of his
adult life can survive and thrive without him.
I think that
meets the definition of humility.
In my column a
couple of weeks ago about backdating stock options, I wrote that former Brocade
Communications System CEO Gregory Reyes was aware of the company's practice but
never received any of the backdated options. After hearing from Reyes'
spokesman, I need to correct myself.
allege that Reyes was aware of the practice. Reyes strenuously denies ever
backdating any options or condoning it. The prosecutors do not accuse Reyes of
receiving any backdated options or personally profiting from the
question, however, that the other executive mentioned in the column, Steve Jobs,
was aware of his company's practice ' yet he isn't facing down the barrel of a
Department of Justice shotgun. Not yet, anyway.
In a December 2006
SEC filing, Apple Computer disclosed that it backdated options and that CEO Jobs
had actually recommended favorable dates to use in redating some options to
benefit the recipients. Initial reports suggested that Jobs was not a recipient
of any of the backdated options, yet board minutes show that the Apple directors
granted Jobs 7.5 million options at its October 19, 2006 board
Other records show,
however, that there was no October, 19, 2006 board meeting. Jobs, who returned
the 7.5 million once the situation became public, denies any
David Moon is president of Moon Capital Management, a
Knoxville-based investment management firm. This article
originally appeared in the News Sentinel (Knoxville, TN).