Ethics Dunce: Rapper and Hip-Hop Music Mogul Ryan Leslie

I wouldn't mess with this guy. No way.

I wouldn’t mess with this guy, Ryan.  No way. But be my guest…

The real mystery for me in this silly scenario is why the rapper would think he could publicly promise a $1 million reward and not have to make good on it. Any rational theories will be received with pleasure.

Ryan Leslie, who has penned a hit song or two and performs as a hip-hop artist himself, had his laptop and external hard-drive stolen while he was on tour in Cologne, Germany two years ago. Apparently he felt that the demos and songs on the equipment had potential, because he offered $20,000 for the laptop and hard-drive’s return. When that didn’t work, he upped the reward to $1 million. A man named Armin Augstein found the computer while walking his dog in a park not far from where the computer had been taken, and he turned it over to German police. When the man claimed his reward, Leslie refused to hand it over, claiming that Augstein must have been involved in the theft, though police found no evidence supporting that allegation.

Leslie forced Augstein to sue him, and after two years of litigation, a Manhattan jury has ruled that the German man indeed has a right to receive the promised finder’s fee, all one million smackeroos of it. Leslie nearly got away with his bait-and-switch, it seems: at one point the jury suggested to the judge that $1 million was “too much” and asked if it could come in with a lesser amount. The judge said no. This is where half-baked jury ethics often leads to poor verdicts. How can $1 million be “too much” when the value of the items’ return was set by their owner?  It was, after all, their value to him, not to a random jury member, that counts. One million dollars was obviously their genuine and fair value to him—at least that much. How can a $1 million payment for a task that was completed after the beneficiary said he would pay that sum for it be “too much”? The jury was mixing up the conclusion that Leslie offered “too much” (although there is no way the jurors could know that) with the idea that Augstein was going to receive “too much,”  which if he receives what was offered, is impossible. I may think my baseball team pays its left-fielder too much, but that doesn’t mean that the player is asking for too much when he insists that he get the money the team agreed to pay him.

My guess is that the rapper thought he could get whoever found his laptop to agree to a lesser reward as an alternative to an expensive lawsuit. I don’t think he expected the reward to be claimed by a German who looks like a James Bond villain. In any event, Leslie has obviously been trained in the dawg-eat-dawg world of pop music recording, where double-dealing, deceit and under-handed negotiations seem to be the norm.


Facts and Graphic : New York Post

Source: Gawker

8 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: Rapper and Hip-Hop Music Mogul Ryan Leslie

  1. I like Carbolic Smoke Ball as much as everyone else, but couldn’t the jury have come to the conclusion that no reasonable person would agree to pay $1000000 for a laptop and thus there was no valid contract, as per Leonard v. Pepsico, Inc? If they did, could they not find that the $20000 was a reasonable offer and thus could form a valid contract? I’m not saying that this is the conclusion I would come to if I were on the jury, but I can understand it.

    I agree that it is not a good thing to make an offer one doesn’t intend to keep.

    • Maybe they could have, but it would be wrong. If this guy was a bus diver, maybe, but he can afford the million bucks. There have been times when I would have paid a million bucks for my car keys.

      • Yeah, I agree if one only considers the question of fairness. I do not know how the jury was instructed or what they heard during trial, so I don’t think that they should be criticized overmuch for their question (it seems like the judge handled it well, anyhow).

        Now I’ll just have to make sure that I never start a sentence with “I’d do anything for…”.

  2. This is a prime example of putting your money where your mouth is. If Leslie was not prepared for the possibility of having to potentially pay the one million dollars, he never should have offered the one million dollar reward. I’m proud of our justice system in this instance.

  3. …why the rapper would think he could publicly promise a $1 million reward and not have to make good on it. Any rational answers will be received with pleasure.

    While Ryan Leslie might not be ethical, he is intelligent. He was accepted at Harvard as well as several other prominent schools at the age of 15 after receiving a perfect score on his SAT. He graduated from Harvard four years later with a degree in Government/Political Science/Macroeconomics. He has had a very successful life with little in the way of setbacks. Perhaps he felt he was smart enough to pull off his retraction of the $1million reward and was further aided in his attempt to retract the reward by a sense of irrational entitlement.

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