Heard Off the Street: Just what they deserve . . .

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When the New Year rolls around each year, it is the socially acceptable practice to wish for health, happiness, peace, prosperity and other blessings largely outside the realm of the human experience in the New Year. This misdirected, but inexorable, tradition is perpetrated by our innate instinct to believe -- the preponderance of historical evidence notwithstanding -- the reassuring Christmas carol that "from now on our troubles will be miles away."

So, casting discretion and rational judgment to a relentlessly ill wind, here's my 2014 wish list in keeping with the best holiday traditions.

* For cost-slashing Heinz CEO Bernardo Hees and his blue-jeaned, private equity cohort of bean counters, a wish that someone will lock them and their sharpened pencils in a round room and confine them until they find the nickel in the corner.

* A bifurcated wish for Paul Wood, the omnipresent spokesman for UPMC. If he really believes the things that so glibly, so effortlessly cascade from his mouth on a routine basis -- including that the region's largest health care system has no employees -- may the New Year bring Mr. Wood a conscience. However, if he doesn't believe what he says and only wants to keep his nonemployee paycheck, may Mr. Wood have less trouble sleeping at night in 2014.

* For this year's inevitable crop of U.S. Steel early retirees, a wish that the price of their shares, which has jumped more than 60 percent since president and CEO Mario Longhi took charge Sept. 1, will cushion their golden years after they become part of Project Carnegie, the steelmaker's efficiency (that's cost-cutting for you nonsophisticates) regimen.

* For PPG Industries chairman and CEO Charles Bunch, a wish that his unconventional math skills -- 1 + 1 has actually made 3 in the case of Akzo Nobel and other PPG acquisitions -- continue to outshine the skills of other merger mechanics, who routinely put 1 and 1 together and come up with less than 2.

* For Target, a wish that the next time the retailer is hit with a security breach like the one that compromised the accounts of 40 million or so credit and debit cardholders this holiday season, it will come clean sooner. An email from chairman, president and CEO Gregg Steinhafel issued two days after the breach was laid bare in every media outlet somehow doesn't seem to be the appropriate way to celebrate the Christmas shopping season. But it is what many Americans have come to expect from Big Business.

* For Avivah Litan, the Gartner analyst who said the "top victim" of Target's security breach was the retailer -- not the 40 million or so ancillary victims -- may the New Year find her placed on interminable hold when the retailers or financial providers she patronizes have the same problem Target did.

* For consumers, a wish that one clear-headed regulator will come to the irrefutably obvious realization that having a hospital system -- no matter how many employees it doesn't have -- operate an insurance company, and vice versa, is a flagrant conflict of interest and do something about it.

* For corporations prone to forever whining about the government being on their backs or employing uncertainty as a crutch, a wish that they would realize that neither are viable business strategies and that both lamentable behaviors undercut the credibility of their boastful claims about the creativity, brilliance and vitality of American capitalism.

* Speaking of getting the government off of backs, for Royal Dutch Shell, which is mulling Gov. Tom Corbett's offer of an estimated $1 billion tax break to put a methane cracker plant in Beaver County, a wish that the government would get big business off the backs of taxpayers.

* For Rice Energy, the Canonsburg oil and gas exploration and production company attempting to raise $800 million through an initial public offering of its stock, a wish that it gets the accounting help it needs. In asking investors to dig deep into their pockets, Rice admitted it did not have adequate internal controls in 2011 and 2012 and that the team hired to review its accounting practices won't finish its job until after the stock is sold.

* For current and former public employees concerned about the implications of U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes' ruling that the pension benefits pledged to Detroit's city employees are fair game in bankruptcy negotiations, an understanding that -- in many cases -- delusional procrastination and fiscal ineptitude trump "promises" made. That doesn't make it right, but Detroit officials, labor unions and voters could see this freight train coming years ago and had ample time to negotiate a more palatable outcome.

* For the rest of us, a wish that in 2014 we appreciate more the difference between price and value; realize that regulators exist because some people and organizations prefer hiring slick attorneys to generally doing the right thing; understand that the world would be a better place if more people did not have to be incentivized to do the right thing; and accept the fact that the predatory principle of what's-in-it-for-me is not true north on the compass.

And, if it's not asking too much, that from now on all our troubles will be out of sight.

Len Boselovic: lboselovic@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1941.

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