Another Day . . . Another Member of Congress, Hollywood’s Elite, the Media, Silicon Valley Bites the Dust

In 2015, Representative John Conyers, 88, settled a sexual harassment complaint by a former employee who said that she was fired because she would not submit to his sexual advances. At 88 years of age the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee is chasing staff members?

Pundits, senators, experts, toddlers, and several Jack Russell terriers in the DC area are opining that we need to have a “conversation” about this problem. No, we don’t. Here’s the extent of the conversation: Cut it out!

In this week of thanks, be grateful. All of these reports, whether true or false, will do for workplace behavior what “Fatal Attraction” did for marriages. Every married man in America settled down. Be afraid, be very afraid. The domino effect should be enough for anyone with three brain cells to just “cut it out.” Please fill in here your own obvious quip on the presence of three brain cells among members of the media, Congress, Hollywood elite, etc.

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The FIFA Trial: Defendants Making Throat-Slitting Gestures at Witnesses?

Soccer is a rugged game. Soccer fans are a rough sort. And defendants at soccer corruption trials, well, a U.S. federal district judge is about to hear testimony about the throat-slashing gestures one of the defendants is alleged to have made to a witness during his testimony.

Manuel Burga, one of many defendants in the alleged international web of FIFA corruption in the award of games and franchises, is a former Peruvian soccer official on trial for conspiracy and racketeering. Alejandro Burazco, a businessman from Argentina who entered a guilty plea in the FIFA corruption web, was testifying about the payments he made to Mr. Burga in cash because Mr. Burga was already under investigation in Peru on charges money laundering. When Mr. Burga first made the gesture, Mr. Burazco was just leaving the witness stand after his first day of testimony. During day four of his testimony, Mr. Burga made the throat-slitting gesture again. Mr. Burazco told a federal agent of the gesture as he left the stand on his final day of testimony, crying. Mr. Burga’s lawyer told the federal district judge that his client has a skin condition that causes him to itch his neck. Mr. Burga’s lawyer also said that his client was going to see a dermatologist about the skin condition.

However, the federal judge concluded that there was sufficient probable cause to hold a hearing on the possibility of witness tampering. The court will see videos of the court room as well as any incoming evidence from the defendant’s dermatologist. Only in soccer.

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Looks Like Menendez Will Walk: Jurors Can’t Bring Themselves to Convict

The creep factor has been out and about as often as Harvey Weinstein is in and out of whatever Arizona rehab facility banishes him for cell phone use as he seeks to recover from his addiction to starlets. Oddly missing from the news is coverage of the corruption trial of the senior Senator from New Jersey. The evidence in the trial of Robert Menendez reads like a Russian dossier. Senator Menendez was BFF with a wacky doctor who got involved in about $100 million in questionable Medicare billing. The two had good times together, sometimes with various forms of entertainment involved. And the doc made 6-figure donations to the senator.

But, the jury did not see things as criminal. Or some portion of them did not. Absent an evidentiary e-mail that read, “Say, Bob, how about I give you $700,000 to get these regulators off my back?” Without that level of proof, the jury saw no quids in the quos. Patterns, amounts, and frat-boy behavior did not tip the scales. The Barometer blames CSI, Law & Order viewing. Those prosecutors come up with tangible evidence so that there is no possibility of reasonable doubt. Absent the smoking gun, jurors will not employ the tools of logic and deduction. Prosecutors are on their own because jurors will not think through the complexities of timing on gifts, donations, and good times. Once again, elected officials who engage in unseemly behavior declare the most bizarre of victories – not being convicted. Could the bar be any lower for the behavioral standards of our elected officials?

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Tech Firms and the Baltimore County Public School System: Donations and Quid Pro Quo

Silicon Valley wants to sell computers to school systems. Get the young ‘uns using your computers at an early age and they are hooked for life. Apple built its market through the school systems. But, competition is now more fierce, so the tech firms are courting the school systems.

Courting includes donations to the system’s Education Foundation. In exchange the Foundation put-up banners with company names, a way to get the name of your computer or program into every school. In addition, the companies sponsor administrators in the system for trips to share their experiences in students using laptops. One administrator has enjoyed 65 out-of-state trips at the expense of vendors.

The Foundation has no policy on donors and members of the Foundation’s board include representatives from the tech firms. Sometimes board members are voting on proposals submitted to the Foundation by tech companies. The school system has a policy of not allowing employees to accept travel from vendors when they have proposals pending before the district. The rule allows for plenty of activity when the proposals are not pending.

If all of this sounds like quids for quos and conflicts, well, that would be because there are quids for quos and conflicts. Based on a New York Times article covering the close relationships and perks, Baltimore has begun an investigation. Good call.

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“The culture went wrong, the governance went wrong, the board went in a very bad direction. I think winning gives some excuses for bad behavior.”

New CEO of Uber, Dara Khosrowshahi, in an interview with Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times.

I should say. Here’s an astute CEO: Employees were quitting in droves, the board of directors suffered from infighting, there were five pending federal investigations(and counting)and #DeleteUber resulted in 500,000 customers deleting their accounts. Let’s not forget strained regulatory relationships, banishments from major cities, sexual harassment allegations, and one heck of a case study of what happens when pajama boys start companies. They quite nearly finish them off. All good wishes to Mr. Khosrowshahi. He is off to a good start with his candor. You can’t fix a problem (or many) unless you first acknowledge the problem(s).

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Chief of FBI’s International Terrorism Section Rolled in Charlotte, NC Westin: His Glock, $6,000 Rolex, and $60 Stolen

The police report indicates that agent Robert Manson met an exotic dancer in a hotel bar and took her back to his room when the bar closed at 2:00 AM. The Charlotte police took information for their report from other agents at 6:30 AM the next morning because Agent Manson was too “incapacitated” because of alcohol. The incident, which occurred in July 2017 and is just now coming to light, is the subject of an internal FBI investigation. That FBI runs a tight ship.

So many questions, so little space. The Barometer will leave the usual questions unsaid but must ask: How does an FBI agent afford a $6,000 Rolex?

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The “Situation” With the UCLA Basketball Players in China

UCLA officials released a statement explaining that it was “aware” of a “situation” involving UCLA basketball players in Shanghai. Coach Steve Alford announced that several players were being benched before an exhibition game in China sans explanation. Turns out that the players were benched because they are in the hoosegow on shoplifting charges. Some “situation.”

The Barometer cannot understand their need for shoplifting. All three players are freshmen. Given what some college players are raking in during recruiting, surely one of them could afford to pay.

The exhibition games in China are a means for drumming up interest among Chinese young people and their parents college education in the United States. The tuition the international students pay helps the universities and their deficits. Ah, the beckon call: Come study in the United States at a first-rate university. Learn shoplifting!

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“The confinement of the princes, said to be in the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh, could be a particularly strange experience for Prince Alwaleed, who owns stakes in a number of Four Seasons hotels.”

The New York Times on the round-up and arrests of 11 Saudi princes. “Confinement” and “Ritz-Carlton” are two terms one does not usually see in the same sentence. However, under Saudi standards, this combo means that they are getting serious about corruption.

The hotel is not taking reservations and WiFi is down. Just in case you were thinking of joining the princes in their confinement.

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The Ethicist at the New York Times: Priorities on Tattling

In the Sunday, November 5, 2017 “The Ethicist” feature of the New York Times, writer Anthony Appiah revealed a bias that afflicts society: the unwillingness to tell those in charge about bad acts or dangerous activity. A mother of a college student, who did not join a rowdy “football” fraternity, learned from her wise-beyond-his-years son that a friend of her son had been seriously injured as a result of his hazing at the football fraternity. Her son told her that his friend had asked that he tell no one about the events. The mother was writing to ask if she should let college administrators know about the injury and hazing.

The Ethicist stewed and fretted about keeping quiet, noting “there’re considerations in favor of keeping quiet.” Actually, no there are not. In this post-Weinstein, Spacey, Hoffman era of “we all knew and said nothing” even as the parade of horribles continued, this analysis is troubling. One of the basic questions of ethical analysis is to ask ourselves: Whom could my actions or, in this case, inactions be injured a result of my decision? Try a host of plebes coming in for initiation. Try thinking about the deaths of too many young men during the indignity of hazing. Try thinking of the mother of a young man, somewhere down the line, who would have to deal with the loss of a son or see her son through a permanent disability? Since when is tattling worse than these consequences? From Wells Fargo to Penn State, think of what could have been avoided if those involved had demanded that the conduct stop.

The Ethicist fretted that the injured young man could be identified as the tattletale if mom reports the fraternity. Let’s see. Was no one else present at the hazing? Did no one notice that he was injured? Did no one realize he quit the fraternity and the football team because of his injury? Such a report could come from anyone, anyone with a sense of responsibility.

The Ethicist added that the mother should discuss her need to let university administrators know with her son before making the disclosure so that her son could let his feelings be known. The Barometer would discuss it with her son first too. However, our discussion would vary slightly. Departing from the helicopter-parent syndrome, the Barometer would tell her son to talk with his friend and explain how important it is for others to be told. If the injured young man will not report his experience, then the son should report the fraternity himself. The Barometer would explain the harm that could come, the need to protect others, and offer reassurance that disclosure of bad acts is not the end of the world nor the worst thing that he could do. It’s not exactly the stuff of laying down one’s life. In fact, it can be anonymous. But, this mom needs to understand the need for inculcating the ethical value of taking the heat in order to stop bad actors and afford others the protection the son’s friend should have had. A simple, “Yo, you have hazing injuries going on over at the frat houses,” will get a rise out of any university administrator.

One more thought — Does this mother believe that no one is going to be able to pull together facts and self-identify the university from the details she has furnished to a national newspaper? Then again, maybe hazing injuries are so pervasive that the young man and his injury could be at any football fraternity across the land. Ah, all the more reason to play a small role in stopping the madness.

UPDATE: The New York Times reports this morning that a 20-year-old pledge to the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity at Florida State, Andrew Coffey, 20, majoring in civil engineering, was found dead on Friday morning (11/03). Tallahassee police believe alcohol might have been a factor in his death. Florida State has halted all chapter meetings, social events, and philanthropy of the sororities and fraternities. The rules were announced after a member of another fraternity member, at Phi Delta Theta, was arrested for cocaine trafficking. Just keep debating whether to tell.

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The Bathsheba Syndrome, Jeffrey Immelt, and Why GE Is In Trouble

By now, the story of Jeffrey Immelt, former GE CEO, traveling with, not one, but two corporate jets so that he always had back-up has made the rounds. The Board is outraged and sent out an explanation befitting of a coach for the 5-year-olds’ soccer team in their end-of-the-year ‘Everyone gets a trophy because everyone is a winner” celebration. The GE spokeswoman lauded Mr. Immelt’s 30 years of “dedicated service.” Worse was Mr. Immelt’s letter in which he explained the need for the second jet because he worked “100-hour weeks with more than 60 percent of my time of the road.” He also added that “GE had a difficult time keeping its planes flying.” The Barometer will keep that warm and fuzzy thought the next time she boards a jet with GE engines, which will be the next flight because GE supplies engines to all the airlines! The Barometer has not seen a chase plane at-the-ready for us in coach.

However, what is missing from the justifications, explanations, excuses, and platitudes is why internal audit missed the practice or said nothing about it. No one in corporate travel said a word until there was a change in the HR VP spot (the officer in charge of corporate travel). The head of HR and general counsel questioned the use of the second plane. So, they did what all bureaucratic messes do — they formed a committee and came up with the brave recommendation to stop the stupid chase plane. The recommendation or order or whatever it was, was ignored. Then came the whistleblower report. Neither VPs, nor corporate committees, nor boards, nor rain, nor sleet nor dark of night can stop a whistleblower. So, the new CEO stopped all private jets, is selling the fleet, and everyone will use commercial flights. Remember, they have GE engines!

GE is investigating so that we on the outside, including investors, can fill in the gaps beyond the “dog ate my homework” justifications being tossed about. GE might have a look at the Bathsheba Syndrome. The name comes from the story of David and…., perhaps the raciest story in the Bible. When the king gets too comfy, hanging around the palace, not fighting battles any longer, and taking advice from no one, you get adultery, a child on the way, the death of Uriah, or, in this case, a chase plane for the CEO’s private jet. There were a few in the palace who saw that something was awry, but no one listened because of an apparent fear of King Jeffrey. He might be doing something stupid and harmful, but he is, after all, the king.

If employees and leaders were willing to let this one slide, imagine all the strategic, production, marketing, and other cost issues they let go unaddressed for fear of the king. The corporate chase jet and the failure of anyone to stop it is symbolic. The events reflect a fearful culture at GE. With no resistance, Immelt took GE down a path of near self-destruction. Imagine, one of the good-to-great, great-to-excellent, built-to-last, Six-Sigma companies that everyone once studied going down in flames. Oh, the symbolism in that sentence. We continue to study GE now, but for a different reason. How is it possible for such a company to destroy itself? The Bathsheba Syndrome was no doubt a big part of it. And the chase plane events tell us it was in play.

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What Drives Behavior That Results in Indictments

The Barometer was reviewing the recent grand jury indictment of Paul Manafort, President Trump’s campaign manager for about 6 weeks in the summer of 2016. Mr. Manafort is facing money-laundering charges, so the indictment lays out wire transfers that were used to pay for a condominium in Soho in Manhattan and a brownstone in Brooklyn ($3,000,000), among so many other expenditures: A home entertainment company received $1,319,281.00. Antique rug store: $934,350. Men’s Clothing Store (Bijan):$849,215. Landscaper for the home in the Hamptons: $655,500. Priceless, eh?

The behavior patterns of those charged with white-collar crimes are the same. One pattern is levels of spending that would make a drunken yuppie blush. Dennis Kozlowski spent five figures on an umbrella stand for his Manhattan digs. The fellas at Enron went for the Maserati types of vehicles. The multiple homes. The Hermes ties. Whatever they buy, it is never enough. One more home. One more car. Another $5,000 suit. The insatiable appetite for stuff impairs judgment. They cross lines to keep the income stream flowing at the same gallons per minute.

Whether Mr. Manafort is guilty remains to be seen. But, his spending is a head-turner for all of us. A reminder that it is never enough, but we are ensnared by the desire to find out if we can reach the “Enough!” point. Sadly, that point comes too often when bail is set at $10,000,000.

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Update on Basketball Bribery

The Barometer checked in on the four assistant coaches in the FBI case of the alleged bribery scheme involving Adidas and payments for basketball recruits saying “Yes!” to their schools. University of Arizona assistant basketball coach, Emanuel “Book” Richardson entered a not guilty plea and was released on a $50,000 bond. Prosecutors originally requested $100,000 but Book’s lawyer, Brick Storts, persuaded the court that the amount of $100,000 was “totally unreasonable.” Dear reader, lest you think the Barometer dosed off in typing this paragraph, we do indeed have a defendant named Book being represented by a lawyer named Brick Storts. These names have made the spell checker give up, and this case just keeps getting better. Storts declined to reveal who was paying him (his brothers Clay and Lumber also refused to comment) but did offer that it was not the University of Arizona.

USC’s Tony Bland has hired the New York attorney who defended John Gotti Jr. and drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. The U.S. Attorney who brought the charges said that he was exposing the “dark underbelly of college basketball,” and he was apparently not kidding.

The University of Arizona said it was “appalled” at the charges and suspended Book. USC suspended Bland and said that it was “shocked.” Auburn University suspended assistant coach Chuck Person Auburn who was also charged, adding that it was “saddened, angry, and disappointed.” Oklahoma State said it was “surprised” and suspended assistant coach Lamont Evans, also charged. The NCAA found the charges to be “deeply disturbing.” The U.S. Attorney said that the men circled “blue-chip prospects like coyotes.” Former University of Louisville head coach Rick Pitino said the charges that Adidas had paid one of his recruits came as a “complete shock.” He was not charged in the indictment, but he was fired by the university, whose feelings at this point remain unknown. The Barometer expects that they too are shocked, surprised, appalled, saddened, angry, disappointed, and deeply disturbed.

The FBI was tipped off by a financial adviser from Pittsburgh who caught the FBI’s attention for embezzlement from his professional athlete clients. In exchange for the FBI telling his sentencing judge about his cooperation on the NCAA matters, Louis Martin Blazer served as the FNI’s cooperating witness on the basketball bribery investigation. The U.S. Attorney added that the investigation is ongoing and issued a warning to coaches who may be involved in such skullduggery, “We have your playbook.”

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Per The Yale Parenting Center: Don’t Punish Your Kids for Lying

Alan Kazdin, the director of the Yale Parenting Center, offers this advice, “The most common reactions to children who lie are explaining why it is wrong and punishment. As ways of changing behavior, these are ineffective.” The better way? Ask your child to tell you something that is true, and then say, “That was great! You told me what happened just like I asked. Wow!” Be sure, according to the Yale Center, to follow up with a hug or high five.

Here’s the problem the Barometer sees right out of the blocks: If you don’t punish your child for lying, how exactly would you know when he/she is telling the truth? The absence of punishment is license. The presence of license is more lying.

The Yale Center is correct about one thing — children lie if they see their parents do it. Let children see you in action when the stakes are high and you too tell the truth and try to avoid the following:

1. Lying to relatives to tell them you will not be at home to avoid a visit.
2. Saying you are sick to get out of work, parties, meetings.
3. Telling someone they look okay and then later saying (in front of the child), “Wow! Did you see him? He looked like a zombie!”
4. Not taking items back to the store when you did not pay for them (we assume it was an oversight, but even for intentional theft — probably a good idea to take it back and pay).
5. Speeding and then telling the police officer who pulls you over that you were not.
6. Saying that your child is under 5 in order to get them in free at the buffet.
7. Taking deductions on your taxes when you know they are not truly deductions and then bragging about it at home.
8. Not disclosing defects in items at your garage sales.
9. Claiming the better pair of sunglasses from the lost and found at Disney World. This was after lying about your kids’ ages to get them cheaper tickets into the park.
10. Changing the date tags on bread bags in order to sell the older bread without a discount.

All real. All confessed to the Barometer. Oh, and the list goes on. And we wonder why our children lie.

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Wells Fargo: The Gang That Can’t Shoot Straight

Let’s recap the problems at Wells: The fake accounts debacle, the fake auto loan insurance mandates, the mortgage changes without authorization (fake again), and the sacking of four foreign-exchange bankers along with the transfer of an executive from that area of operations. Now add a new development. The Comptroller of the Currency has issued a confidential report on Wells Fargo, which, naturally, was leaked to the New York Times. The report discusses the failure of the bank to respond to consumer complaints about the issues listed in the recap. Also, the report concludes that Wells failed to supervise what its contractors (i.e., insurance companies benefiting from the Wells mandate) were doing. Wow — the hits keep on coming at this bank.

The report does praise the bank’s hiring of consultants and launching of investigations. The question the gaggles of specialists are not answering is obvious except to anyone at Wells or the Office of the Comptroller: What is it about the culture of Wells that causes this type of conduct? The conduct is not isolated to the consumer division now. Until Wells gets at that question, the clean-up will continue. Clean-up does not solve culture problems. Clean-up is checklist. Clean -up is full-page ads pledging to do better. Clean-up is spending money. Clean-up is an expensive process for the privilege of moving on, but it is not a solution to the cultural problems that fueled all of the list. The Comptroller is praising clean-up. Think about this: In the midst if trying to clean up one of the most embarrassing and blatant abuses of customer trust, Wells had ongoing behaviors among employees in various divisions to whom it did not register that something was awry with their conduct, i.e., fake stuff. Causation here is deep in a culture that needs some work.

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