“Just a Process Crime”

The Barometer hears this phrase over and over again. Certainly there are folks who have not been convicted of crimes who are still charged with crimes. The biggie is lying to the FBI. Most people mistakenly state that Martha Stewart went to prison for insider trading. She did not. She did not commit the crime of insider trading, i.e., securities fraud. She was convicted of lying about what she had done, which was take a tip from a broker who shared information about what another one of his clients was doing. Altering phone logs and asking the young fellow to stick with a story was Ms. Stewart’s process crime.

Michael Flynn, following a distinguished military career, was not charged with collusion, spying, or foolhardy contact with a foreign power. He was chargedwith and has entered a guilty plea to lying to the FBI (although the continual postponement of his sentencing and emerging details on the notes of federal agents in their interviews with him indicate that they were uncertain about whether he lied). Another process crime.

James A. Wolfe, a long-term Senate staffer with the Senate Intelligence Committee, had a three-year relationship with New York Times reporter, Ali Watkins. Using an encrypted message system, Mr. Wolfe had passed information to her and other reporters about the activities of the Senate Intelligence Committee, including information about those who had been issued subpoenas to appear before that committee. That same message system was used to communicate with three other reporters. When asked about his contacts with reporters, Mr. Wolfe was not forthcoming. He was not charged with spying, leaking, or foolhardy use of electronic messaging (not yet a crime, but you think folks would catch on about the whole electronic messaging body of risk) The FBI has charged him with lying in its interviews, and his trial is forthcoming. Another process crime.

Here’s a safety tip. As bumbling as the FBI may appear in current reports, should agents come calling, just face up to things and get a good lawyer or tell them the truth. Lying is still lying, and a process crime means that the individual was not yet ready to ‘fess up to something that may not have been a crime. Martha Stewart probably would have paid a $10,000 civil fine and moved along. Mr. Wolfe faced employment sanctions, but not a crime. He was disclosing subpoena information, not national intelligence.

A process crime means that you did not want to tell the story that is embarrassing, could cost you your job, or reputation. Those are some tough consequences to face, but they do not get your prosecuted for a crime, as long as the simple quality of forthrightness emerges. Process crimes still constitute a criminal record.

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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