Category Archives: Business & Commercial

A New, Seductive And Sinister Way To Be Unethical: Shoplifter Extortion For Profit

CEC

If you are accused of shoplifting in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Boston, Dallas, Houston, San Diego, Los Angeles, Miami, Atlanta, and a growing number of other cities, you may face an unexpected choice. If the store you were shopping in participates in a program operated by  the Utah-based  Corrective Education Company, you will be asked to choose between talking to the police, with the risk of being arrested, or leaving the store without facing law enforcement, after you sign an admission of guilt and agree to pay $320 to take an online anti-shop-lifting course.

What??

Slate informs us that about 20,000 people around the country have faced versions of this dilemma since CEC began operations, and chose option B—enriching CEC, and the stores as well. The interesting approach was started by two Harvard Business School graduates—that figures—and is sold as a win-win-win-win:

“It saves retailers time that they would have to spend dealing with the police; it frees up law enforcement resources that could be spent on higher priority cases; it reduces the likelihood that a shoplifter will come back to the store to steal again; and it gives second chances to offenders who would otherwise be saddled with a criminal record for life.”

Right.

It’s unethical you know. I wonder if the company knows? Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Law & Law Enforcement, The Internet

Update: Fox News’ Self-Destructive O’Reilly Denial

You can't yell you're way out of this one, Bill..no, wait. Maybe you can.

You can’t yell you’re way out of this one, Bill..no, wait. Maybe you can.

And here’s another one. Questions are being raised about reporter Bill O’Reilly’s accounts of being “bombarded” during the LA riots.

This process resembles sexual harassment. One way you can tell the falsely accused from the genuine miscreants  is that one accuser opens the floodgates when there is substance to the complaint. Very few sexual harassers aren’t serial by nature–think Bill Cosby. Heck, think Joe Biden.  The O’Reilly debacle is following the script of the Brian Williams drama almost exactly, except that NBC finally acted responsibly, though not until it had tried the old “let’s see if this will just blow over” ploy.

So how many reports of O’Reilly hyping facts and enhancing his bravery and boldness will have to surface before Fox News stops covering for him and acts like a legitimate news organization? ( For those who have forgotten, such a news organization values trust and integrity, rather than emulates President Obama’s insistence that the I.R.S was as clean as the driven snow. ( It was and is not, and the news media’s partisan decision to bury the scandal rather than investigate it will haunt it for a long, long time.)

The network seems intent on destroying any credibility there was to the claim that it was dedicated to truth rather than bias, and qualified to expose the distortions of the liberal-biased mainstream media. Forced to deal with a  parallel incident to NBC’s Williams crisis, Fox has chosen profit over professionalism (Bill’s ratings while playing victim have been boffo!) and is botching a brilliant opportunity to prove its critics wrong.

Instead, Fox is proving critics correct. Eventually, all but the shameless will begin to feel like they are getting the news from charlatans, and seek enlightenment elsewhere. NBC was late to choose integrity; Fox News may be too late.

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

Unethical Quote of the Week: Fox News

weasels

“Bill O’Reilly has already addressed several claims leveled against him. This is nothing more than an orchestrated campaign by far left advocates Mother Jones and Media Matters. Responding to the unproven accusation du jour has become an exercise in futility. Fox News maintains its staunch support of O’Reilly, who is no stranger to calculated onslaughts.”

—-Fox News, in a statement announcing that it was standing behind its beleaguered cash cow and star, Bill O’Reilly, who has been shown convincingly to have misrepresented his exploits on several occasions.

What an awful, slimy, deceitful statement. Yecch. It must have taken a veritable pack of weasels, plus some lawyers, to draft that. Let’s unpack it. Hold your nose: Continue reading

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Integrity Check For Fox As Another Bill O’Reilly Fib Surfaces

Wags say Bill's next book will be titled "Killing Credibility"...

Wags say Bill’s next book will be titled “Killing Credibility”…

Now another Bill O’Reilly misrepresentation of the facts has come to light, mandating action by Fox News management if it doesn’t want to appear guilty of being even less concerned with the integrity of its product than the mainstream media is with theirs.  After all, Brian Williams is no longer on the air. So far, Fox is resisting. Its  operative rationalizations are:

1. Bill’s not an anchorman, like Brian Williams, but a pundit. My response: He poses as a truth-teller and calls himself a reporter and a journalist.

2. These are nit-picky, minor factual variations, not outright fabrications as in Williams’ case. My response: Yes, Williams’ were worse, and there were more of them. So what? O’Reilly should be held to the standard he articulated quite well while covering the Williams situation: if you can’t trust “an anchor or commentator,” he isn’t worth watching.

3. The whole controversy was the result of an ideological hit job by angry liberals who wanted to take down a conservative talking head in retribution for the most popular left-biased network anchor being hounded off the air by conservatives. My response: Yup. So what? Fox needs to be professional and insist on the integrity of its product, whatever the motive that drove O’Reilly’s exposure.

As Ethics Alarms discussed a few days ago, Mother Jones and its ideological assassin David Corn published a piece accusing O’Reilly of repeatedly telling his audience that he had been in a “combat zone” during the Falkland Islands war, and sometimes leaving the impression that he was on the battlefield in the Falklands. The truth appears to be that O’Reilly was in a scary riot that occurred after the war itself, in Argentina. Unlike Williams, then, O’Reilly accurately described the incident, but intentionally mischaracterized its nature. (A riot, even a riot prompted by a war, is not a “combat zone.”)

I wrote: “Are you surprised? I’m not. O’Reilly has a lot in common with Williams—an addiction to self-glorification,  a monstrous ego, and an unseemly desire for celebrity.” Thus I’m not surprised that a second example of Bill spinning his own exploits has surfaced. From The Daily Beast:

In 1977, O’Reilly was a 28-year-old TV reporter in Texas investigating the assassination of John F. Kennedy. O’Reilly wrote in his 2012 book Killing Kennedy that he was knocking on the door of a CIA asset with ties to the Kennedys and the Oswalds when he heard the asset shoot himself to death. Pretty dramatic, but it’s entirely false, says Jefferson Morley, a former Washington Post editor and author of JFK assassination book Our Man in Mexico. O’Reilly is heard on phone calls obtained by Morley telling an investigator that he would fly to Florida from Texas the next day to cover the suicide.

It’s harder to argue this one away than the Falklands enhancement: it’s a Brian Williams-style fabrication, and it’s in print. (The Smithsonian has reportedly pulled O’Reilly’s best-seller from its book stores now, because it regards the whole book as suspect. Funny: I always regarded this amateur history exercise as presumptively unreliable.) He has also repeated this fictional version of the facts on the air.

There should be no debate. Fox News exists because of conservative conviction that the mainstream media news networks were biased and could not be trusted. Fox is obviously biased, but it can’t give an organizational pass to intentional fabrication and maintain any credibility at all, especially when the liar in question is, like Williams at NBC, the 800 lb. gorilla of the organization. If O’Reilly survives because he’s a ratings champ while NBC, though kicking and screaming, properly jettisons its own gorilla, then Fox is exposed as a journalistic fraud (which many people are convinced it is anyway.) Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Journalism & Media, U.S. Society

Ethics Dunce: Jillian Michaels

Jillian

There’s no boor like a celebrity boor.

Especially a strong celebrity boor.

The Washington Post reported yesterday that the ex-trainer for TV’s unethical reality show “The Biggest Loser” visited the Northern Virginia locale of The Palm, an up-scale “go to be seen” D.C. steakhouse over the weekend.

She reportedly arrived at the restaurant around 8:30 p.m. and joined a couple in a booth. Witnesses told the Post that Michaels soon began speaking loudly and obscenely, using the vulgarities fuck and cunt repeatedly, as well as multiple variations.   “She used the word ‘f—er’ in just about every variation — noun, verb, adjectives,”diner told the Post.  When another patron finally went over to the table to complain, noting that she was glad she didn’t have her kids with her, Michaels  ridiculed the complaint, saying, “It’s fucking ten o’clock!” Michaels said, according to the witnesses. Then one of her companions told the diner, also using vulgarities, to go listen to someone else’s conversation.

I am glad I wasn’t there. There would have been trouble. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Marketing and Advertising, Popular Culture

KKK Wednesday: This Is Why It’s Unethical To Be Ignorant

"We're going for doughnuts!"

“We’re going for doughnuts!”

How in the world, you might wonder, would a Krispy Kreme promotion called “KKK Wednesday” get the green light from an American corporation, even the British affiliates of that corporation, and even though the promotion occurred in Hull, a city in Yorkshire?

The disturbing answer is that despite the internet, Google,  public education, and nearly a century’s history of vile acts of murder and racism that received world-wide attention, recognizing the significance of the letters KKK requires intellectual curiosity, consciousness, and a good faith effort to have a bare minimum of knowledge about the world around us.

KKK was intended to stand for “Krispy Kreme Klub.” How many people do you think vetted the promotion without a single neuron firing? My guess: high double figures, maybe more. In other settings, such carelessness kills people, destroys companies, and starts plagues and wars.

KKK promotion

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Filed under Around the World, Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Marketing and Advertising

Life Imitates Saul

Lawyer Billboard

 The billboard ad of North Carolina lawyer Larry Archie has drawn a lot of attention in the state and on legal ethics forums.

Some observations:

1. I was a little late seeing “Breaking Bad” ( I tend to avoid show with drug dealers as heroes) so I didn’t see the obvious connection between the popular AMC show’s cynical, unethical and effective slime-ball lawyer Saul Goodman, played by Bob Odenkirk, and last year’s jaw-dropping—but funny!—video ad for the services of Pittsburgh criminal lawyer Daniel Muessig.

2. This is why we ignore popular culture at our peril….and I think the legal profession needs to stop laughing and start worrying. People really do think Saul who is a criminal lawyer, is typical, and bar associations are doing very little to dissuade them. This is irresponsible, dangerous, and stupid. The profession has a duty to educate the public about how lawyers are supposed to act and why, and if it whiffs on that obligation (as it has for about the last hundred years) public respect for the justice system will continue to drop. Continue reading

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