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Real estate CEOs insulated from corporate corruption cases

Perspective: Safety at the top

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"The buck stops below the top." That might be the lesson chief executive officers learn from the stories of corporate corruption at Homestore and Freddie Mac. The online real estate marketing company that operates the Realtor.com Web site for the National Association of Realtors and the giant mortgage finance corporation might not appear to have much in common. But their stories are markedly similar. Both admitted they manipulated their financial results to improve profitability and gain undeserved renown on Wall Street. And at both, underlings have taken the fall while the top executives have walked away unscathed and millions of dollars richer. The Securities and Exchange Commission and U.S. Department of Justice vowed to teach Corporate America a lesson about cooking the books when these cases came to light. But if senior executives take their tips from what's happened so far at Homestore and Freddie Mac, the lesson might be that there is safety at the peak of the organization char...