The FBI’s Former Director of the Office of Public Affairs and the Free Sports Tickets from CNN and the New York Times

Whilst the Office of Inspector General (OIG) was reviewing the conduct of James Comey in the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation during the 2016 election, the OIG ran across some additional e-mails that implicated another FBI official in conduct not related to the Clinton e-mails. One never knows where the truth will percolate or how it will emerge, but eager it does. The e-mails discovered serendipitously showed that the FBI’s former director of the Office of Public Affairs accepted two tickets to a professional sports game as a gift from a CNN correspondent who regularly covered the FBI and DOJ, in violation of federal regulations. In fact, there was a bit of a cultural problem at the FBI with agents participating in golfing outings with media representatives, being treated to drinks and meals after work by reporters, and attending “nonpublic social events” (parties in non-OIG language as the guests of journalists.

That kind of culture certainly explains why the OIG found significant media leaks from FBI employees to the media. They were all on the same team.

But back to the official, who has since been identified as Michael Kortan, the former director of the FBI Office of Public affairs who retired earlier this year. The OIG investigation found that Mr. Kortan accepted tickets from CNN and New York Times reporters. Here are some excerpts from the e-mail exchanges between Mr. Kortan and a CNN reporter:

CNN correspondent: “I have an extra ticket for tomorrow nights Nats game. Would you like to join?” adding, “Good seats.”

Kortan: “I’m in!”

CNN correspondent. “Great.”

Follow-up e-mails show that the two met for beers and then headed to the game. Cozy.

But there was more. Another e-mail exchange with the CNN correspondent (never identified in the report):

CNN correspondent: “Nats v Marlins Friday night. I have to be away. Can you use four tix?”

Kortan: “I’m good for 2 tix if that’s OK.”

Kortan took another FBI employee and had a full night with the $65 per ticket freebie.

Mr. Kortan initially told the OIG, under oath, that he had paid back the reporter. He had not because the OIG fond no messages documenting the repayment nor could Mr. Kortan produce any proof of repayment. Mr. Kortan was also not forthcoming when asked who used the other ticket. Eventually admitted that the ticket went to a young, female FBI employee. Mr. Kortan did go back to the OIG to say that he was mistaken about the repayment. The game was rained out and that he was told by the correspondent not to repay him. As long as he was cleaning that up, Ortan did confess to the tagging along of the female FBI employee. Mr. Kortan resigned prior to the conclusion of the investigation.

The DOJ declined to prosecute the case. Not sure what happen with Mr. Kortan. but General Michael Flynn awaits sentencing for allegedly “lying to the FBI.” Funny how agents seem aloof, not apologetic, when they are caught. Methinks that the FBI has a huge culture problem. Check the e-mails. Even FBI agents fancy them to be private.

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Senator Elizabeth Warren, Pregnancy Discrimination, and Truth Percolating

Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has been spinning a yarn about her days as a teacher for special ed students. She said she was 22, visibly pregnant, and the principal did what Senator Warren said all principals did at that time: He refused to renew her contract for another year because she was “visibly pregnant,” and he hired another teacher to take her place. As part of the story, Senator Warren has told crowds, “I loved that work, and I would probably still be doing that work today, but my story has more turns.”

However, since the story became public, Megan Jacobin, a writer for a socialist magazine recalled an interview with then-Professor Warren in 2007 (and the video is available). In that interview, then-Professor Warren told a different tale as to why she left teaching: she did not have the education courses, she did not feel that type of job was for her, and so she went back to graduate school. The “visibly pregnant” story did not make its way into that interview.

In addition, since the story become public, the school district have turned over their side of the story. Mrs. Warren declined an offer of another year. The school board members also sent her a letter that expressed their sadness at her departure.

Between this story and the realization in her 70th decade here on earth that she might not be of the Cherokee tribe (once the DNA came back), Senator Warren emerges as an enigma. Professor Warren certainly enjoyed considerable success as a law school professor. Her work spawned the Consumer Financial Protection Board (whether for good or for bad is a different issue). Why the tales to paint herself as a victim or as a member of a protected class? That question goes beyond the Barometer’s expertise. However, there is a lesson in her actions for all of us: Truth percolates. This uncanny force has a way of emerging in ways that defy probability.

A socialist writer, a school-board member, and an old video emerge t challenge a tale of pregnancy discrimination. What are the chances? When truth is involved, the chances are fairly good. Truth takes its time, but it does get to the surface.

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No More Social Justice Lectures from Sports Figures

The NBA gets the Barometer’s Annual Duplicity Award. Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted the following on Friday, October 4: “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.” The Chinese consulate in Houston was offended, the owner of the Houston Rockets contemplated termination of Morey, and there was considerable upheaval. That Twitter. Enter the NBA on Sunday, October 6 with this statement released in English in the United States:

“We recognize that the views expressed by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey have deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable. While Daryl has made it clear that his tweet does not represent the Rockets or the NBA, the values of the league support individuals’ educating themselves and sharing their views on matters important to them. We have great respect for the history and culture of China and hope that sports and the NBA can be used as a unifying force to bridge cultural divides and bring people together.”

And then there was the version in Chinese that appeared in that country:

“We are extremely disappointed with the inappropriate comments made by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who has undoubtedly seriously hurt the feelings of Chinese fans. Morey has clarified that his remarks do not represent the position of the Rockets and the NBA. Under the values of the NBA, people can learn more about what they are interested in and share their opinions. We respect China’s history and culture with great respect. We hope that sports and the NBA, as a positive energy of unity, will continue to build bridges for international cultural exchanges and bring people together.”

The NBA’s position is that the translation was not correct in the Chinese statement and that the English version is the NBA’s position.. “Views expressed” and “inappropriate comments” do not translate the same way in any language.

Then we had the clarifying remarks from Adam Silver, NBA Commissioner, who the Barometer believes appeared in Grant Wood’s painting, “American Gothic”:

“I recognize our initial statement left people angered, confused or unclear on who we are or what the NBA stands for. Let me be more clear. Over the last three decades, the NBA has developed a great affinity for the people of China. We have seen how basketball can be an important form of people-to-people exchange that deepens ties between the United States and China.At the same time, we recognize that our two countries have different political systems and beliefs. And like many global brands, we bring our business to places with different political systems around the world. But for those who question our motivation, this is about far more than growing our business. Values of equality, respect and freedom of expression have long defined the NBA — and will continue to do so. As an American-based basketball league operating globally, among our greatest contributions are these values of the game. In fact, one of the enduring strengths of the NBA is our diversity — of views, backgrounds, ethnicities, genders and religions. Twenty-five percent of NBA players were born outside of the United States and our colleagues work in league offices around the world, including in Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Taipei. With that diversity comes the belief that whatever our differences, we respect and value each other; and, what we have in common, including a belief in the power of sports to make a difference, remains our bedrock principle. It is inevitable that people around the world — including from America and China — will have different viewpoints over different issues. It is not the role of the NBA to adjudicate those differences. However, the NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues. We simply could not operate that way.Basketball runs deep in the hearts and minds of our two peoples. At a time when divides between nations grow deeper and wider, we believe sports can be a unifying force that focuses on what we have in common as human beings rather than our differences.”

That’s telling’ em, Commish! A little late, and a lot compromised.

The whole human rights issue goes out the window (or at least stops at the U.S. border), along with social justice, social responsibility, and plastic straw judgments, when shoe contracts and the Chinese fan base are at risk. Funny how the sports world tolerates every mollycoddled athlete who has a grievance against the United States. But let a general manager post a tweet about freedom to support a movement for just that, and the tweet must come down, a job hangs in the balance, and NBA panic sets in. Prepositional sentence-endings aside, the NBA is one fine mess. Amoebas have more structure than these various and sundry positions. Pea soup has more clarity.

There was an editorial in China about the NBA kerfuffle with this sentence, “Sports loses out when politics enters play.” Good advice for actors, athletes, and Adam.

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Another Day, Another Parent Sentenced

Gordon Caplan, once the co-chairman of the Willkie Farr & Gallagher law firm and American Lawyer‘s “Dealmaker of the Year,” was sentenced to one month in prison, a fine of $50,000, 250 hours of community service, and one year of supervised release. Mr. Kaplan entered a guilty plea to paying Rick Singer $75,000 to have his daughter’s ACT score increased from a 22 to a 32. Mr. Caplan’s statement at sentencing was contrite and representative of the tragedy we see unfolding daily:

This whole episode was at least in large part my own ambition for my daughter going to school. I lost sight of what is means to be a good father, as I obviously did not act in the best interest of my daughter. . . . Shame and humiliation haunt me.”

Judge Indira Taiwan commented on a distinction that she sees between the Caplan and Huffman cases in which parents paid to get a more “competitive package” for their children by increasing test scores and those cases in which the parents fraudulently used athletic admissions. Huh? It was fraud to have their children pose as athletes when they were not or high-scorers on admissions tests when they had not done so. Different ploys, but at the heart of both was representing their children as something they were not.

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Analysis of the Cancel Culture and Carson King: He Deserves Better

Good insights on this young man and the missing forgiveness in our culture.

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Canada’s Green Party Leader and Photo Alterations

Canada’s Green Party leader was caught on camera holding a paper cup with a plastic straw. Horrors. So, the faux pas was fixed — they photoshopped in a reusable plastic cup with a metal straw. Do what I say, not what I do. Every parent’s mantra when scolding a child for behaviors of their own.

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Fiat-Chrysler Admits Inflated Sales Figures for 2012-2016

The story began when one Chrysler dealer, Napleton Automotive Group, sued Chrysler for “strong-arming” dealers into reporting higher sales volumes. The suit alleged that those dealers were rewarded. The strategies were creative. Some dealers would record cars as sold, but all they did was move them to the “used” category. Other dealers would include sales that were later reversed.

The SEC began investigating the sales issue in 2016, and Fiat-Chrysler just paid a $40-million fine for fake sales numbers that were later “unwound or reversed.” Fiat-Chrysler said that the fine will not result in a material effect on its overall financials. Well, we can all breathe a sigh of relief on that. Immaterial fraud fines are a different beast all together.

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Mylan and the EpiPen Mess

Mylan had an interesting marketing strategy for its treatment for severe allergies (the EpiPen), a device-with-a-drug that the company purchased in 2007 from Dey Laboratories. Here’s how it went. For purposes of Medicaid billing, if the device-with-a-drug was classified as generic, Milan was required to offer the government a 13% discount. If, however, the device-with-a-drug was a brand-name drug, Mylan had to offer the government a 23% discount. So, for purposes of Medicaid sales, EpiPen was generic. However, for everyone else, EpiPen was a brand-name drug. Over a six-year period after MyLan’s acquisition, the price went from $100 to $600, that’s 400%, which lands us near Martin Shkreli and Turing territory.

During a Senate investigation into drug-price increases, EpiPen popped up because of the price increase. Actually, the prices popped up in a survey by the National association of Medicaid Directors on EpiPen price increases. Then Political Pro figured out the “having it both ways” strategy.

Here’s the real story. The drug in the EpiPen, epinephrine, has been a cheap generic for some time. However, Mylan, through Dey, held the exclusive right to sell the drug in its patented auto-injector. So, while the drug was generic, the drug in the EpiPen was not. One understands the classification dilemma. What one does not understand is why the two options? One leans toward the price structure as the explanation.

The Amoral Technician Approach

When companies make these decisions, they are in a legalistic mindset. A lawyer could support a sort of “Who knows?” theory and go right long with the dual price structure. Now, try explaining that to a public that just plays by the rules and a sense of fairness in interpreting and applying those rules.

But, beyond legal and ethical difficulties, let’s look at costs. The EpiPen pricing and discount issues emerged in 2016. Mylan settled the over-billing charges with the federal government for $465 million. Just last week Mylan, without admitting or denying the allegations, settled SEC charges that related to its failure to disclose to investors the possible loss that could come from the classification debate. That was another $30 million. Mylan did nor share the possible losses before settling in October 2016.

Additional Background, the Mylan Culture, and Ms. Bresch and Her Family

Some history on Mylan is helpful:

In 2014, the board of directors approved a compensation plan that would require 16% growth in annual earnings growth. That goal was a challenge because Mylan, at that time, was operating with a product buffet that was 90% generic.

At the time, the dual classification was uncovered EpiPen was generating 10% of Mylan’s revenue and 20% of its profits.

Mylan moved to new headquarters outside Pittsburgh to a building that was partially owned by the board’s leading outside director and chairman of its compensation committee. That director transferred his interest in the building to his partner before Mylan made the purchase.

Mylan paid a writing consultant to work with a clinical doctor on supporting Mylan’s plan to reduce co-pays and deductibles as the means for dealing with high drug prices.

Heather Bresch, the CEO of Mylan, is the daughter of Joe and Gayle Manchin, as in former governor (current senator) and First Lady of West Virginia. Gayle Manchin was director of the National Association of State Boards of Education in 2012 and headed up an initiative to require school to purchase medical devices for life-threatening allergic reactions. The White House gave funding preference to the EpiPen and 11 states passed laws requiring auto-injector epinephrine devices in the school. Mylan had the only such device, and the FDA had denied Teva approval for its similar device. Teva received approval in 2018 — Mylan has a competitor now.

The Barometer has followed Ms. Bresch since she was made COO of Mylan. Here is an excerpt from the Barometer’s text in the 8th edition of her text, “Business Ethics: Cases and Selected Readings.”

When Ms. Bresch was named to the position of COO, the press release indicated that she had received her MBA from West Virginia University. A reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette discovered when he called to verify Ms. Bresch’s credentials that she had completed only 22 credit hours of the 48 credit hours required for the MBA degree. Provost Gerald E. Lang and business school dean, R. Stephen Sears had awarded Ms. Bresch the degree retroactively. An investigation revealed that Ms. Bresch and others (the original total was 70) may have been given their degrees despite not having completed the necessary courses.

University president Mike Garrison would not denounce the award of the degrees and, because of student protests during graduation (“Garrison Must Resign” written on their hats), was forced to resign. In 2008, a special panel reviewed the University’s degrees and conducted an audit. The panel concluded that some degrees should have been awarded and that others were not justifiably awarded. Ms. Bresch’s degree was one the panel concluded was not awarded properly

Ms. Bresch claimed there was disparity in treatment between her case and that of the other students/graduates (?). Shortly after the MBA controversy, Ms. Bresch was promoted to Mylan’s CEO slot.

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Colleges and Universities Are Hanging on to the Rick Singer Money, For Now

Stanford has identified $770,000 in its sailing program that came from payments Rick Singer made to the coach for sailing in order to secure admissions for the children of the wealthy. And there are other educational institutions around the country in the same boat, as it were. Yet, they are hanging on to the money. Their communications-director responses are that there is a federal investigation pending and that they need to wait. Maybe so, but tainted money is tainted money. There should be a plan for the money, such as using it to fund scholarships for those young people whose parents could not lay down the scratch for a “side door” admissions path.

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“What makes your children entitled to a side door?”

Federal District Court Judge Indira Taiwani in sentencing a third parent, Stephen Semprevedo, to 4 months in prison, a $100,000 fine and 500 hours of community service. Mr. Semprevado paid $400,000 to get his son into Georgetown as a phony tennis recruit. The “side door” was operated by Rick Singer, a man who collected $25 million from parents and then doled it out to coaches, test proctors, and test takers. In exchange, the takers gave extra time on admissions tests, took the admissions tests, or altered answers to improve test scores. Coaches used their discretionary spots to get the fake athletes admitted.

Judge Taiwani also took issue with the phrase “terrifying admissions process” that parents used as a means of explaining the desperate and illegal measures in the Springer criminal enterprise. “Think about how terrifying that process is for the applicant whose parents didn’t even go to college.”

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“Are they doing that for their children or are they doing it for their own status?”

U.S. Federal District Court Judge Indira Taiwani during a sentencing hearing for Devin Sloane. Mr. Sloane is one of the parents indicted under the federal investigation, Operation Varsity Blue, for paying Rick Singer to get their children into elite schools. Mr. Sloane paid Mr. Singer $250,000 to get his son into USC as a fake water polo player. Mr. Sloane even staged pictures of his son in their pool to make it look like he was a water polo athlete.

Judge Taiwani was on a roll. She expressed her concern that the parents offered as their excuse that they did it for their children. In Judge Taiwani’s mind, the parents were not providing food or other care taking. Their efforts were not even about access to higher education. Instead, the judge noted that wealthy parents were focused only on getting their children into elite colleges. The judge even expressed frustration because Mr. Sloane did not appear to understand that the real ones hurt in the admissions frauds were those who were not admitted because Mr. Sloane’s son was.

Judge Taiwani sentenced Mr. Sloane, the owner of a water treatment company, to four months in prison, a fine of $95,000, and 500 hours of community service. The first of the parents to plead guilty, Felicity Huffman was sentenced to 14 days in prison. However, she had only paid $15,000 to Rick Singer to get her daughter’s test scores raised.

The good judge raises an important question: What was the motivation of the parents?

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If Your CEO Has an Alcohol-Related Accident

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina has a problem. The company’s CEO, Patrick Conway, was arrested for drunken driving in June. There had been an accident because Conway allegedly swerved out of his lane on I85 and hit the rear corner of a truck. Neither Conway nor his daughters were hurt. Conway has been charged with driving while impaired and misdemeanor child abuse. Mr. Conway went to 30-day inpatient substance abuse treatment program.

BCBS did not notify State Insurance Commissioner, Mike Causey, because its policies provide for the chief operating officer to take over when the CEO is on temporary extended leave. BCBS also told Commissioner Causey that the company was protecting Conway’s right to privacy and due process. Mr. Conway has a court appearance on October 8 related to the charges.

Commissioner Causey said that he was “disappointed” that there was no notification, and that he “expected better from our state’s largest insurer.” Mr. Causey is right — BCBS relied on compliance with technical rules instead of asking themselves, “Should be let the regulator know?” Very much an ethical issue. Now BCBS has two problems — the ongoing DUI case and the loss of trust with its regulators.

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Pay College Athletes?

In yet another California-dreaming moment, California (as of 2023) will permit its student-athletes to accept money off their names, images, and likenesses despite NCAA prohibition of such. Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Gay, a fine writer, sees no problem with unleashing college athletes into the world of too much money too early in life. The Barometer has two words in response to Mr. Gay: Antonio Brown. There is all that needs to be said about a sixth-round draft choice who became the highest paid receiver in the NFL. A life with talent, a life with wealth, and a life with a raft of domestic abuse calls, suits, and sexual harassment claims. And now a professional career in shambles. Yes, let’s sic that curse of easy money early on the young college athletes. What could possibly go wrong?

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Adam Neumann: Another Problematic CEO

We have suffered through Richard Scrushy (HealthSouth), Dov Charney (American Apparel), Elon Musk (Tesla), Travis Kalanick (Uber), Martin Shkreli (Turing Pharmaceuticals), Elizabeth Holmes (Theranos), Jeff Dachis (Razorfish), and the list is long and becoming boring. Now comes Adam Neumann (WeWork, now just We). These entrepreneurial CEOs with great ideas are dynamic, energetic, forward-thinking, and stubborn. They can take an idea and see it through to great financial success. Then something happens. Perhaps their downfall comes from too much recognition and too much money too early in life. Perhaps the downfall comes because they have no one to rein them in. Yet somehow they manage to get their companies into trouble, cause questions to be raised about their companies, and/or just keep pushing the envelope on personal behavior.

Mr. Neumann was profiled in the Wall Street Journal. One example was a private jet flight for Mr. Neumann and his friends to Israel. The gang smoked marijuana on the flight over the Atlantic, and the crew found a stash of the drug placed in a cereal box — planning ahead for the trip back. The owner of the private jet recalled the plane. That company wanted no part of the young CEO’s adventures. Mr. Neumann wants managers to fire 20% of their employees because he believes they have hired too many mediocre folks. The conflicts of interest revealed in preparation for an IPO were stunning — family, friends, and Mr. Neumann all benefited privately from We’s work. Mr. Neumann borrowing money from the company with his options as collateral — conduct that public companies can no longer do thanks to Bernie Ebbers and his WorldCom disaster.

Yet, in the article, there are still analysts proclaiming that this kind of conduct is what resulted in the company meeting its “outlandish” targets. Yes, indeed, they will meet the targets when you are firing at a rate of 20%. However, that does not mean that the numbers are real. That info will be percolating. The We board seeks to remove Mr. Neumann — good luck with that one. See the stories of the CEOs listed.

History repeats because another thing these young buckeroos have in common is that they never learn the lessons of those who have taken similar paths with their companies. Neither do the analysts. The boards have tried, but the obstacle is that the buckeroos have majority control.

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