My newly found of love of Burn Notice reminds me of a question Robin Hanson posed to use a few weeks ago. Why don't firms assassinate the CEOs of their competitors? It seems pretty strange but industrial sabotages is an old practice and a highly paid CEO is the lynchpin of the company.
It's not like it would be that difficult to get away with it given the resources these firms have at their disposal. Besides, most murders don't get solved if they are done halfway smart and pulled off by someone not in the system. Mob families have contract killings all the time (using "all the time" in a loose sense). So why aren't CEOs dropping like third world dictators? Here's a few theories.
Rule of law. This is a bit of hand-waving but it's worth noting that my above examples of common assassinations (mobs and developing nations) take place in contexts where the rule of law is precarious at best.
Externalized benefits. Your gain is your third party's gain. But she's also your rival and didn't have to pay for the hit. Even if just two firms are the biggest boys on the block by far, the threat of a new competition (which would surely arise) could get you to shrug your shoulders. Why off the CEO of Pepsi when that will allow another Pepsi to rise up? Meanwhile, Pepsi's still there and now you have two rivals.
Retaliation. This is how mob bosses (and some nations) keep the peace. A CEO is less willing to off his counterpart if he believes they'll respond in kind.
Built in redundancy. In a weird way, every firm large enough to make the risk worth it is prepared for it. It's likely not explicit, but every shareholder knows their CEO could have a heart attack or die in a car accident. If the CEO is worth his salary (and the economic analysis suggests he is), then he's worth taking out an insurance policy for. This means there are other guys who know just as much about the firm and are probably almost as good as the guy in charge. True lynch pins (such as Steve Jobs and Warren Buffet) are rare. Ok sure, you could just take out the back ups, but how do you know who they are? And more than one mysterious death will raise attention--the chance of getting caught rises pretty quickly with each additional dead body.
Shhhhhhh. Of course for all we know CEOs are killed, but we just know them as heart attacks and horrible accidents. Remember the whole idea is not getting caught.