Joe Berardino – Color Me Oblivious

Continuing with my irreverent series on Enron and its ongoing haunting of our business life, we catch up with Joe Berardino.

(Apologies to Mr. Berardino. The photo is actually of the dearly departed “Kenny Boy” Lay, courtesy of David M. Boje, Ph.D.)

Shortly after the Enron bankruptcy, Berardino, Andersen’s CEO, said on NBC’s Meet The Press that Enron had failed “because the economics didn’t work.”

Like Jeff Skilling, who is still fighting his conviction, Berardino is in denial.

Today, Michael David Thomas brings an article in the Washington Post on Berardino’s second act to my attention.

…Berardino’s surroundings make this fact of life plainly evident: He has come a long way from the top of corporate America. Five and a half years ago, he was chief executive of Arthur Andersen, the world’s premier accounting firm, overseeing 85,000 employees. Then one of its clients imploded: Enron. Andersen was convicted on criminal charges, later overturned, for its role in the Enron debacle. Berardino resigned, saying he hoped that doing so would save the firm. It did not.

And so now here he is, sitting in this teeny office, working on his second act in American business. He is chief executive of Profectus Biosciences, a start-up of a dozen or so people working on an HIV vaccine based on technology developed by scientists including famed and sometimes controversial AIDS researcher Robert Gallo. Berardino’s life is no longer in crisis

“I wasn’t paying attention to the AIDS epidemic,” Berardino said. “It was not high on my radar screen…Berardino tends to avoid the labs. Why? “Because I’m dangerous,” he said, another reminder that he is, after all, an accountant. But he feels like he is thriving in his second act. And yet he is still trying to understand how his 30-year career at Arthur Andersen evaporated so quickly, leading to this second act. At Profectus, he’s in a place he never would have imagined, as he puts it, “in 30 or even a zillion years.”

He continued: “It takes years and years for you to really understand a major death in the family or a loss of our business. What I will say is that it is nice doing something where you walk into a board meeting and it’s a question of how many lives we are impacting.”

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