“What was he thinking?” I heard this frequently after Eliot Spitzer resigned. I won’t retell the former New York governor’s tawdry downfall. But I will say his conduct highlights two qualities inappropriate in a public servant: arrogance (“I’m above the law”) and stupidity (“No one will notice”).
These flaws, unfortunately, are universal. People of all professional, educational, or social standing believe (wrongly) that rules don’t apply to them and that rule breaking has no cost.
We see this frequently at the National Ethics Bureau. Financial professionals who want to join our organization must complete a detailed application and pass a rigorous seven-year background check. If they’ve had a disqualifying violation, we either find out about it from their application or from our background check. In either case, when truth comes to light, we must decline their application or revoke their membership.
Here’s a case in point (true story). An advisor, let’s call him Bob, wanted to join NEB. But he checked “No” to this question on NEB’s membership application: “Within the last seven years, have you had a state or federally regulated license revoked, restricted, or terminated for cause?”