The large and respected law firm Mayer Brown has taken the ugly case of some Japanese-American clients who want the city of Glendale, California to remove a memorial to World War II “comfort women” from a public park. In doing so, and in the way it is proceeding, the firm has inspired harsh condemnation from two estimable legal commentators, both First Amendment champions: Marc Randazza, and Ken White. Their objections, which caused Randazza to call the firm “the least honorable law firm in the world,”and White to conclude, “This lawsuit is thoroughly contemptible. It should fail, and everyone involved should face severe social consequences,” are heartfelt, but, I think, misguided. Their argument, beside arguing that the lawsuit is frivolous, is best articulated by Randazza: Continue reading
Tag Archives: conflicts of interest
In a long report published in the Washington Post a week ago, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s conduct as a federal prosecutor was examined, under the headline, “Chris Christie’s long record of pushing boundaries, sparking controversy.” This is euphemistic, to say the least. What the report describes is clear-cut, undeniably unethical practices by Christie. They were arguably legal and technically permitted at the time (though no longer), but never mind: they were unethical, and would quickly set off the ethics alarms of any ethical lawyer or politician. For Christie, they did not.
I’ll focus only on the main practice in question. The Post’s Carol Morello and Carol D. Leonnig write,
“As the top federal prosecutor in New Jersey, Chris Christie struck an unusual deal with Bristol- Myers Squibb. In exchange for not charging the drugmaking giant with securities fraud, Christie’s office would require it to fund a professorship at Seton Hall University’s law school — Christie’s alma mater.The $5 million gift, one component of a larger agreement between the company and prosecutors, was hailed by the school, in South Orange, N.J., as a cornerstone of its new center on business ethics.”
Now there’s irony for you: a center on business ethics funded with an unethical gift from security fraudsters. For the passage above just as easily, and more accurately, might have read: Continue reading
Good News On Business Ethics? Maybe: The Ethics Research Center’s 2014 National Business Ethics Survey
The Ethics Resource Center, a distinguished Washington, D.C. based ethics research and consulting firm, performs a survey of business employees every two years to measure trends in workplace ethics. It’s 2013 survey and report was released last week, and appears to bear good tidings. Workplace misconduct is on the decline, the data says. 41 percent of employees observed misconduct in 2013, way down from 55 percent in 2007. Moreover, ERC’s “National Business Ethics Survey,” which polled 6,400 U.S. employees, found that only 9 percent of employees polled felt pressure to compromise their standards in 2013, down from 13 percent in the previous survey in 2011.
ERC Chairman Michael G. Oxley (of Sarbanes-Oxley fame) said in a release,“The results of the survey are encouraging and show that companies are doing a better job of holding workers accountable, imposing discipline for misconduct, and letting it be known publicly that bad behavior will be punished.”
Among the survey’s intriguing findings:
- “Over the last two years, observed misconduct fell in every one of the 26 specific categories we asked about in both NBES 2011 and NBES 2013.
- “Pressure to compromise standards, often a leading indicator of future misconduct, also was down – falling from 13 percent in 2011 to nine percent in the latest survey.”
Less encouraging are these: Continue reading
The Hollywood wagons are already circling around Woody Allen, accused—again, but now as an adult who can speak for herself—by Dylan Farrow of sexually abusing her when she was only 7 years old. Reading some of the statements issuing from Tinseltown, I am struck again by the ugly opposition any non-celebrity victim must face when accusing a powerful industry figure of wrongdoing. Luckily, many of the most vociferous defenders signal their desperation and their lack of basic comprehension of the issues, undermining their arguments.
Exhibit A is veteran Hollywood journalist Roger Friedman, who was quick to issue an article alleging, as he has for 20 years, that Dylan’s story is all part of a Mia Farrow plot to destroy innocent Woody. On his website, Friedman headlines his piece, “Mia Farrow Uses Close Pal Journalist in Woody Allen War: Writer of Latest Piece is Close Friend.” Friedman’s concept of what constitutes a “conflict of interest” is intriguing. His argument is that Times journalist Nicholas Kristof, who published Dylan’s open letter on his blog, is friends with Mia Farrow (Friedman implies that they are romantically involved while specifically saying that he isn’t implying it–his evident journalistic sliminess would undermine even a fair article, which this is not), and that this makes Dylan’s letter less credible. What he doesn’t explain, since he can’t, is why the same letter would be any more credible or reliable whether Kristof published it or someone else did. Continue reading
The Ethics Alarms review of a truly disheartening year in ethics continues with fallen heroes, ficks, fools and follies with Part Two of the 2013 Worst of Ethics awards….and there’s one last section to come. Be afraid..be very afraid:
Fallen Hero of the Year
Edward Snowden, whose claim to civil disobedience was marred by his unwillingness to accept the consequences of his actions, whose pose as a whistle-blower was ruined by the disclosure that he took his job with the intention of exposing national secrets, and whose status as a freedom-defending patriot lies in ruins as he seeks harbor with not only America’s enemy, but a human rights-crushing enemy at that. The NSA’s over-reach and mismanagement is a scandal, but Snowden proved that he is no hero.
Unmitigated Gall of The Year
Minnesota divorce lawyer Thomas P. Lowes not only violated the bar’s ethics rules by having sex with his female client…he also billed her his hourly fee for the time they spent having sex , a breach of the legal profession’s rule against “unreasonable fees.” Yes, he was suspended. But for not long enough…
Jumbo Of The Year
(Awarded To The Most Futile And Obvious Lie)
“Now, if you had one of these plans before the Affordable Care Act came into law and you really liked that plan, what we said was you can keep it if it hasn’t changed since the law passed.”
2013 Conflicts of Interest of the Year Continue reading
Worlds Are Colliding! A Conflicted Holiday Invitation For Ethics Alarms Readers, Their Friends And Families…
Now I know how George Costanza felt. This time it is the world of Ethics Jack and Theater Jack that are colliding….
The American Century Theater, the small, Arlington, Virginia-based non-profit professional theater company—you know, one of those “culture palaces” that rich people give to so they can “hobnob” with each other (our performing space is in a Middle School) according to Robert Reich—which I helped found and have served as Artistic Director for 18 years— is producing a unique—and free—dramatized version of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” that Ethics Alarms readers can actually “attend” and enjoy with the families, friends and ghosts.
Using a technique pioneered by Ethics Jack’s company ProEthics for Continuing Legal Education teleseminars under the auspices of Virginia Continuing Legal Education, the production will recreate the sound and feel of old time radio drama using modern teleconferencing technology. All of the actors are snug in their own homes, using telephones as their microphones, as their vocal portrayals are mixed, live, with music and sound effects by sound designer Ed Moser, also The American Century Theater’s technical director. More than 20 current and former professional actors from Maryland to Utah will be involved, creating an hour-long, live recreation of a script adapted from the Golden Age of radio drama, when Campbell’s Soup presented an annual live broadcast of “A Christmas Carol” starring Lionel Barrymore ( you know him best as “Mister Potter”) as Scrooge, to millions of families across the country every Christmas Eve.
Theater Jack is the director of the show, which you can listen to over your own phone, or better yet, through the speaker phone with your family taking in the sounds of the classic tale by your side.
How do you do this?
It’s as simple as licking a candy cane!
Anyone wishing to hear the broadcast will only have to call in a few minutes before 8 PM, E.S.T., on Sunday next, December 22. The audience Dial-in number is 1-443-453-0034, followed by entering the Christmas Carol Conference Code: 758246. Then, upon entering the virtual theater, audience members must press *4 to mute their lines (if only theater audiences and their cell phones were so neatly muted!) and wait for the show to begin. There will be no charge to the listening audience for “A Christmas Carol,” except for regular long distance rates where they apply.
Feel free to let your friends, colleagues and neighbors know about the event, and consider this worlds collision-risking invitation my thanks to you for helping Ethics Alarms have a banner year of ethics debate and illumination.
The Lawyer, The Bar And The Nigerian Prince: A Bar Can Teach A Lawyer Ethics Lessons With Sanctions, But How Does It Fix Stupid?
You can read, here, the jaw-dropping Iowa Supreme Court opinion affirming a one-year suspension of Iowa lawyer Robert Allan Wright Jr.for talking his clients into loaning money to…that ubiquitous Nigerian Prince. Wright solicited more than $200,000 in loans from five current and former clients, promising them they would receive as much as quadruple their investment when proceeds of the inheritance described in that helpful e-mail was obtained. He was only going to take a 10% contingency, which is actually very reasonable…or would be, if this hadn’t been a scam.
After his clients lost all their money, Wright was cited for violations of several Iowa Rules of Professional Conduct, including… Continue reading
I can’t exactly say, like Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Ian Malacolm in “Jurassic Park,” that I hate being right all the time…in part because I’m not. It sure is frustrating, however, to see an ethics crisis looming, write about it once, then twice, and still see so many people surprised when it arrives like an angry T-Rex. Thus today, I began the morning by pounding my head against the wall to read in the Washington Post sports section a column by Jason Reid with the headline, “Mike Shanahan, by hiring his son Kyle, has created an untenable situation.” Wait, what year is this? Shanahan, the coach of the Washington Redskins, that team with the name that we’re not supposed to say, hired his son Kyle as the team’s offensive coordinator many moons ago, in 2010. It was a terrible idea at the time, an example of classic nepotism that created an immediate risk of exactly what is occurring now, and perhaps the certainty of it, if the situation endured long enough.
Last season, when the Redskins swept to the NFC East Championship behind thrilling rookie QB Robert Griffin III, the ethics-challenged sports fandom here (Washington, D.C., remember) cited the success as proof that nepotism is an ethics boogie man, nothing more. This was pure consequentialism. As I concluded my post on the topic last January,
“This is rank consequentialism in its worst form. Nepotism is an unethical way to run any staff, company, team, business or government, unfair, inherently conflicted, irresponsible, dangerous and corrupting. It should be recognized as such from the beginning, and rejected, not retroactively justified if it “works.”I’m sure there were and are non-relatives of the Redskins coach who could have devised a successful offense with RG3 taking the hikes. The ethical thing to do was to find them and give one of them the job. The Redskins coach’s nepotism is just as unethical in 2013 as it was in 2012, 2011, and 2010.”
In “Jurassic Park,” the same day that chaotician Malcolm warns that the dinosaur park is so complex that a fatal loss of control is inevitable, the systems break down and he gets nearly gets eaten. The same year I wrote those words, ten months later, it’s Mike Shanahan on the menu as Jason Reid wrote these: Continue reading