What a dilemma. You are a 17 billion dollar technology firm, known for developing the technology application that supports the burgeoning car-hiring business, and most recently for expanding into music streaming by partnering with Spotify. Then one of your key executives is recorded, Mitt Romney-style, as he tells a reporter at a business gathering that the company should deal with negative publicity by doing “opposition research” on reporters and exposing their private lives in retaliation. Now what?
This is where hot tech start-up Uber is at the moment. The executive is Uber Vice President Emil Michael, a key figure in the company’s growth and success. At a private company dinner in New York, he speculated that Uber could spend $1 million to hire a team to do the equivalent of “opposition research” on journalists who were critical of Uber, to dig into their private lives and family secrets. A reporter from BuzzFeed who was a guest at the event made Michael’s off-the-cuff comments public, setting off several rounds of high visibility attacks from various quarters—Sen. Al Franken called for an investigation—and apologies from Uber management, including Michael, whose statement said…
“The remarks attributed to me at a private dinner – borne out of frustration during an informal debate over what I feel is sensationalistic media coverage of the company I am proud to work for – do not reflect my actual views and have no relation to the company’s views or approach. They were wrong no matter the circumstance and I regret them.”
I rate this a category 7 apology on the Ethics Alarms apology scale: Continue reading
Let’s give credit where credit is due…
As we survey the irresponsible, unnecessary but apparently intentional explosion of the political process wreaked by the President’s unilateral action on illegal immigration (not “immigration,” and mark any news organization that uses this deceitful phrase as henceforward untrustworthy), it would be wrong to omit the responsibility of Mitch McConnell and his ilk–any it is a bipartisan ilk— for getting the nation to this dangerous place.
The Republican Senate leader, now Majority Leader, is the epitome of the cynical, power-hungry politician who now dominates our governmental processes, and make them all inefficient, corrupt, and undependable. As chronicled in the e-book soon to be published in hardback, “The Cynic: The Political Education of Mitch McConnell,” in his more than three decades in public service McConnell has perfected the craft of the permanent campaign, careful calibrating positions and policy measures not so much to accomplish any goal in the interests of the public and the nation, but to hold power in the next election. This is the corruption of American democracy, and reporter Alec MacGillis makes a strong case that McConnell has been one of the primary forces making sure the political process only works for politicians. It is all about the game to McConnell, and as McGillis shows, he is as deft at playing it as anybody. MacGillis writes,
I know, Don…it hurts.
[I am typing this in an airplane, sitting crunched in a bulkhead seat crushed between the wall and a 275 pound guy in the middle seat. If you thought my typos were bad before..."]
Between my logging off the blog to go to the airport and now, as I thought about what I would write about CNN anchor Don Lemon’s awful ethics alarm failure while questioning Joan Tarshis, one of Bill Cosby’s growing list of alleged victims, Lemon apologized. That was fast, but I assumed the barrage of criticism heading his way would be furious, and it was. His apology was a non-apology apology, by the way, a classic “I’m sorry you misunderstood me” that, you should notice, didn’t include an apology to Tarshis.
I didn’t misunderstand him. Lemon wasn’t being insensitive; he is in the throes of cognitive dissonance, just like Whoopi Goldberg. Bill Cosby is someone he admires, and sexual assault is something he deplores. If Cosby is a sexual predator, then Lemon has to resolve his dissonance: he can either lower Cosby in his estimation, or elevate what his hero almost certainly did to all these women to the “not that bad” category. (The latter was the choice of most of Bill Clinton’s conflicted offenders, by the way. Lying about sex is normal! Other presidents cheated! It was consensual! Monica seduced him: he was a victim! It was personal conduct...etc.) Continue reading
I was just watching “The Firm” again after many years—my old friend and the terrific actor, the late Bart Whiteman, played “Dutch”—to get the ick of “Cabin Fever 3″ out of my head. (It was part of last night’s Halloween triple feature at my house.)
Pay attention, Tom…
In an early scene in the film, Harvard Law student Mitch McDeere (Tom Cruise) is being courted by big law firms offering perks and cash. Then a small Memphis firm he never heard of —later, he learns that it is run by the Mob— blows him away with an offer he can’t refuse. The firms partners tell him that they wanted him so much, they bribed the clerk at Harvard’s placement office to learn what salaries the other firms had offered Mitch, then matched it plus 20% more. Tom is impressed, and flattered, and greedy, and takes the offer, even though the firm had openly revealed itself as unethical and proud of it.
He should have seen this as signature significance of a dangerously unethical culture in a profession with high ethical obligations, and walked out the door. A young lawyer with well-maintained ethics alarms would have. Who knows? Maybe this was a test the corrupt firm used to weed out ethical associates.
I always thought Mitch was just unlucky, but in the film, at least, he ended up in a bad firm because an ethics alarm wasn’t working.
Oh…and don’t get caught next time.
“BAD University! BAD! OK, that’s over—keep on doing your lazy, sloppy job for obscene tuition fees….”
Has the NCAA taken serious action against the University of North Carolina for 18 years of outrageous academic fraud? No.The organization placed the school’s football program on three years’ probation and banned it from the 2012 postseason, but that punishment was for other infractions too. Indeed, it is likely that the revelations about the fake courses credited to athletes and others resulted in no athletic sanctions at all. The NCAA’s position is that this is an academic rather than an athletic scandal. Funny, I seem to recall Penn State getting walloped with massive sanctions from the NCAA because it allowed an ex-assistant football coach to continue molesting little boys. That was a sick organizational culture scandal, and had nothing to do with the players on the field at all.
What would be a proper punishment for 18 years of allowing student athletes to play basketball and football while taking fake courses? I would say the forfeiting of every game played in by one of those fake students, and 18 years of being banned from inter-collegiate competition. Perhaps then what laughingly calls itself an institution of higher learning might begin to take steps to ensure that its diploma is worth the paper it’s printed on. Continue reading