What is honest? History talks about President Lincoln’s campaign. Consider the term Honest Abe. Given politics, I’d bet the term was thrown at Mr. Lincoln more than once as an insult. The whistleblower at J.P. Morgan Chase who helped the SEC didn’t get much reward for honesty. He kept getting in trouble and the people who were doing bad stuff didn’t, other than the firm paying fines. In a sense, Oliver North fell on his sword so that his president could keep on being honest.
And then there’s the matter of being ratted-out. No one, it’s said, likes a tattletale. Really? Do we like the crooks and charlatans who steal better than the people who inform on them? Often, the answer is a resounding yes. I think that it’s because — at one time or another — we have all sinned. Maybe we all hope we won’t be found out. Really, though, it’s got to be a good thing to rat out really bad people. The tobacco chieftains all said their product posed no danger, and the whistleblower who proved they were lying through their teeth probably saved lots of lives — thousands? Millions of lives? He also created an incredible new source of revenue for the states.
I remember the expression on Bernard Madoff’s face when he was discovered to be a multi-billion-dollar crook: he was proud of his misdeeds, and there was arrogance there, too. His expression said, “Gotcha, you bastards.” He probably is still proud — the cockcrow of the crooks in his prison.
I see that selfsame expression on the faces of the people from the old pre-2007 and 2008 investment banks as they go into and out of court, continuing to defend against being too smart for their own good. Well, kind of too smart. They still seem to have plenty of money and they seem to stay out of prison. When I was a kid, there was (and still is) fascination with crooks like Willie Sutton; in fact, Willie’s name came up the other day in a meeting. Willie at least made no bones about being a crook. The trouble with the Wall Street guys is that they are so arrogant, they don’t know they are even bigger crooks, by hundreds or thousands of times, than Willie. Like Willie Sutton, they got into banking — as he did — because that’s where the money is.
Have a sensational week, a great Labor Day holiday and stay honest with your customers and yourself.
For more from Richard Hoe, see: