W hat a difference a few months make. Early last summer, knowledgeable observers were saying that we live in a new gilded age. The compensation of top business leaders had reached astronomical levels, with C.E.O.s being paid on average almost 400 times what the typical worker earns. And that did not even count what some business officials had been stealing from their shareholders in a string of scandals. Even the Enron-scale corruption of the post-bubble period was being eclipsed by the latest trend in corporate kleptomania, options back-dating.