Friday, March 7, 2014

Two reasons to watch the Dewey & LeBoeuf indictments.

Here's one.  The other one is the use of RICO to include lawyers in conspiracies (here).  It will be interesting to see if the two intersect.

Friday, July 26, 2013

CEOs and off-the-job behavior.

Today's New York Times includes a report by Floyd Norris on a paper that links a CEO's off-the-job rule-flouting behavior with an increase in the likelihood that the CEO's company is going to have to restate earnings or that it might engage in fraud.

I'm looking forward to reading the paper.  My gut tells me that people who routinely break some rules make it easier for them to break others (a la classic cognitive dissonance theory).  It's not a huge leap from that conclusion to the conclusion that people who report to rule-flouting CEOs will likewise be tempted to bend the rules.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

It's not what you say; it's how you say it--and to whom.

I loved James B. Stewart's story in today's New York Times (Boss's Remark, Employee's Deed and Moral Quandary).  When one is a boss, one needs to be painfully aware of how even the most tossed-aside comment will sound to an employee.  My favorite part of the story:
No one asserts that Mr. Corzine told Ms. O’Brien to take customer money. Mr. Corzine’s lawyer, Andrew J. Levander, said Mr. Corzine was told the night before that the firm had $82 million in cash and another $602 million in unencumbered securities, and “it never dawned on him” that Ms. O’Brien or anyone else might “violate the golden rule” about safeguarding customer assets.
But how would Ms. O’Brien have interpreted Mr. Corzine’s comment? When I discussed this with John Hasnas, director of the Georgetown Institute for the Study of Markets and Ethics, he drew an analogy to the murder of Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, after Henry II is said to have uttered, “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?”
“He didn’t actually tell anyone to murder the archbishop,” Professor Hasnas noted. “But people knew what would make him happy.” Indeed, history records that four of Henry’s courtiers promptly set off and dispatched the archbishop in the nave of Canterbury Cathedral. 
Yep.   And do I believe that Corzine's request added a silent "legally, of course" kicker?  Not for a minute. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Skilling's sentence is reduced.

See here.  Is fourteen years enough for the havoc caused by those who led Enron (after Rich Kinder left)?  It's hard to say.  I've never been in a federal prison, even as a visitor.  I can't imagine what life "inside" is like.  I know it's not easy, even in a minimum security prison.  But I also know that there are many, many people who can't retire until they die, thanks to those who manipulated financial information at Enron, WorldCom, and the like.  The people whose pension funds were wiped out have life sentences, so to speak.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that the allegations about B of A are true.

Here's a story about the allegations.  If those allegations are true, and I have no idea if they are, then what we have here is a classic case of creating incentives that trigger exactly the behavior that the bank got from its employees.  An example from the news story:
“We were regularly drilled that it was our job to maximize fees for the bank by fostering and extending delay of the HAMP modification process by any means we could,” Gordon said. Managers instructed staff to “delay modifications by telling homeowners who called in that their documents were ‘under review,’ when in fact, there had been no review,” she said. 
Any employee is likely to work to do more of what the employer rewards and less of what the employer ignores or punishes.  Want your employees to serve customers better?  Then the incentives can't include "how many customers can you serve in an hour?," or you'll get cursory responses to tens of customers an hour.  Want your employees to process documents quickly?  Make sure that "accurately" is also in the incentive equation.

Everyone responds to incentives.  Companies need to pay attention to what their incentives really ask their employees to do.