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Lost Hero

On the day that Eliot Spitzer resigned as governor of New York, a group of traders watched his televised speech on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. When he made his announcement, the traders cheered. The "sheriff of Wall Street," a moniker Spitzer earned by prosecuting corrupt corporate titans in his role as New York's attorney general, resigned in the wake of allegations of his involvement with a prostitute. The traders applauded what they considered a just comeuppance for the man who aggressively investigated their industry -- taking pleasure in the ironic fate of a prosecutor who accused countless Wall Street insiders of immoral behavior.

As someone who teaches the importance of leadership integrity, I considered Attorney General Spitzer a hero. He took on giant investment firms for driving up their clients' stock prices with bogus research reports, and for helping other clients engage in late trading and market timing. He exposed the shamefully high $190 million compensation package of former NYSE chair Richard Grasso. He uncovered wrongdoing at AIG, Marsh & McLennan, Citigroup, and Merrill Lynch -- just to name a few -- and he made those companies pay multi-million dollar fines for their actions. No wonder some people on Wall Street were happy to learn that the self-righteous Spitzer is not without his own moral shortcomings. I don't share their glee, because I've lost a hero.

Despite the good things that Spitzer did to clean up corporate culture in our country, I fear his legacy will now be that of just another leader who fails to live by the values he professes. Those who saw his efforts as a hindrance rather than heroic will continue to delight in his downfall. And some of us will be left searching for a new hero in the war against corporate corruption.

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