Unacceptable excuse of the day

March 17, 2009: 10:54 AM ET

mountainThe ongoing AIG mess provides us with an interesting sidelight today - the use of an excuse that is no longer acceptable in the unwired global universe in which we now live. The unacceptable excuse is still unfortunately in wide use among public relations professionals who represent disgraced or beleaguered executives. Here it is, from today's New York Times: 

Since November, A.I.G.'s financial products unit has been led by Gerry Pasciucco, a former vice chairman of Morgan Stanley who was brought in by Mr. Liddy with instructions to wind down the unit. Company executives said they faced a need to keep skilled professionals in the business unit, which traded trillions of dollars worth of financial derivatives, because it would take great expertise to shut down the business in an orderly manner and without causing more turmoil.

Christina Pretto, a spokeswoman for A.I.G., said Mr. Pasciucco was traveling on Monday and was unavailable. But she said that since his arrival, the company had reduced the volume of its financial positions by more than 25 percent, starting with the "complex and difficult-to-manage positions."

Now, Mr. Pasciucco, the AIG executive running the bonus-hungry unit of that clueless insurance company, may be in Timbuktu, or in Katmandu, or simply in a Ramada Inn in Fresno, but I assure you that no matter how far he has travelled, how distant his locale, how remote his whereabouts, he can be reached by cell phone or BlackBerry. Be he at the bottom of the ocean! Or perched atop a Himalayan peak! He can be found.

The contemporary business climate in which we now suffer presents us with many complexities, many indignities. One of them is, unfortunately, the ubiquity of digital communications. This has many benefits, and an equal number of personal liabilities. One of them is the demise of certain excuses that used to make life more tolerable. Included are such now out-of-date chestnuts as "I'll read that when I receive it tomorrow morning and get you an answer on it by noontime," which was killed by the fax machine, and "I can't get there until Tuesday so let's postpone the meeting until then," which was laid low by teleconference technology. And now, I'm afraid, spokespeople of executives who wish to hide from the media, the government or their estranged spouses must now come up with a replacement for "He's traveling right now and cannot be reached."

How about, "Hello? I can't hear you! I'm going into a tunnel!"

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