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Recent allegations about Conrad Black's spending set me thinking. Had I not read all this somewhere before? $2,000 on a leather briefcase? $3,500 on silverware for the corporate jet? It all sounded terribly familiar.

Then it came to me: Jack Welch. It was only last summer that we read about the former General Electric supremo’s extravagant tastes, flushed out by his nasty divorce proceedings. GE, it emerged, was shelling out $80,000 a month to cover perks including flowers, dry cleaning and vitamins.

But hang about: what about Dennis Kozlowski, former chief executive of Tyco? He’s the one who allegedly spent $6,000 of Tyco’s money on a shower curtain. Black has been accused of spending nearly $43,000 on a birthday dinner for his wife, Barbara Amiel.

Kozlowski celebrated his wife’s birthday by flying friends to Sardinia for a party with a reputed $1m price tag. Highlights included an ice sculpture of Michelangelo’s David dispensing vodka from a strategic part of its anatomy.

I should make it clear that Kozlowski has not been convicted of any wrongdoing. He goes on trial – for a second time – in January. His original trial collapsed amid claims of jury tampering.

Black dismissed the allegations made against him as ‘lies’, while Welch’s disclosures related purely to his civil divorce proceedings. But senior executives must be growing accustomed to seeing their finances laid bare.

This trend has yet to fully embrace the UK, although we have had a taste of it. Robert Montague was ousted as chief executive of Tiphook in the early 90s, amid accusations about his use of company perks. Montague is making a business comeback, while Black still has some way to go.

  • Jon Ashworth, business features editor at The Times.

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