The Sixth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2014 (Part 4 of 4)


Outrageous Hoax Of The Year

Mamoru Samuragochi, the composer sometimes known as “The Japanese Beethoven” because he composed critically acclaimed works despite being deaf, was exposed as double fraud: he didn’t compose the works that made him Japan’s most popular classical composer, and he isn’t even really deaf!  Samuragochi hired a musical ghostwriter named Takashi Niigaki to compose more than twenty compositions for Samuragochi since 1996.

Funniest Outrageous Hoax

Fake Panda


Unethical Artist Of The Year

Performance artist Maximo Caminero, who  walked into the Pérez Art Museum in Miami, entered a special exhibit of sixteen ancient Chinese vases painted over in bright colors by celebrated Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei, picked up one of them, and immediately after a security guard instructed him not to touch the exhibit, allowed the vase to fall from his hands, shattering into bits. Caminero admitted that smashing the pottery, which was valued at a million dollars,  was intentional, and was his protest against in support of local artists like himself whose work is not exhibited at the museum while the art of international artists like Weiwei is.

Unethical Veterinarian Of The Year

Fort Worth, Texas veterinarian Lou Tierce lost his license for five years as a result of, among other transgressions, his telling the owners of a Leonburger (it’s a very big dog) that their pet was terminally ill and had to be euthanized, then secretly keeping the dog alive in a small cage so he could use Sid’s blood for transfusions to Dr. Tierce’s other canine patients. Eventually an assistant at the clinic blew the whistle and alerted Sid’s owners, who rescued their dog and sicced the law on the worst veterinarian since Dean Jones menaced Beethoven.

Unethical Doctor Of The Year

Dr. Nancy Snyderman, NBC’s medical expert, endangered the public by defying a voluntary quarantine for possible Ebola exposure,  because she just couldn’t bear to be without her favorite soup.

Scam of the Year


The Affordable Care Act.

 Unethical Federal Agency Of The Year

The Secret Service. Lots of competition in this category: the Veterans Administration, the I.R.S., the CDC, the Justice Department, NSA…but when you essentially have one job to do and do it badly, sloppily carelessly and dangerously, there’s really not much more to say

Most Unethical Use of Social Media

Facebook itself, which admitted that it had been manipulating its users’ moods as part of a behavioral study, without their users’ consent, of course.

Runner-up:  Minnewaska Area Schools (in Minnesota) which had to  pay $70,000 in damages to Riley Stratton, a 15-year-old high school student, after it suspended Stratton for a Facebook post, written and published outside of school, in her home, in which she expressed hatred for a school hall monitor who she said was “mean.”  After the suspension, when Stratton used Facebook to inquire which of her “friends” had blown a whistle on her, school officials brought the young teen into a room with a local sheriff and forced her to surrender her Facebook password. Officials used it to searched her page on the spot; her parents were not consulted.

Most Unethical Protest

The November demonstration across from the White House in which scores of illegal immigrants demanded that President Obama defer deportations…as if those entering this country illegally have any standing to demand anything.

Assholes of the Year

(When the label “Jerk’ Just Isn’t Enough)

Corporate Asshole: Comcast

Asshole Fraternity: Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity at the University of Arizona, which a year ago decided that hosting an African-American stereotype party on Martin Luther King Day was a cool idea, and soon thereafter posted photos of the bash on various social media, showing drunk students posing like rappers,wearing baggy pants around their knees and drinking liquor out of watermelon cups.

Professional Athlete: Philadelphia Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon

crotch grab

Noted Columnist: New York Magazine’s Frank Rich

Website: News Nerd

Hypocrite of the Year

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who wrote, in his tell-all memoir in which he revealed matters entrusted to him in professional confidence by President Obama, this passage:

“I was put off by the way the President closed the meeting. To his very closest advisers, he said, “For the record, and for those of you writing your memoirs, I am not making any decisions about Israel or Iran. Joe, you be my witness.” I was offended by his suspicion that any of us would ever write about such sensitive matters.”

Liar of the Year

Dorian Johnson, Michael Brown’s friend, whose constantly changing false description of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson helped spawn a false narrative still driving events six moths later, exacerbating racial unrest, fueling riots, misleading the public and helping to get two NYC police officers killed.

Dishonorable Mention: National Security Advisor Susan Rice, already infamous for going on multiple Sunday morning talk shows in 2012 to insist that the fatal Benghazi attack was an isolated incident sparked by a YouTube video, this time told ABC that  released Taliban prisoner Bowe Bergdahl “…served the United States with honor and distinction…” This description was and is in defiance  of what the White House, the military and the national security apparatus had been aware of for years. Bergdahl  either went AWOL, deserted, or assisted an enemy of the United States. After her false representation was known to all and under fire, Rice told  CNN that her description of Bergdahl was not  false and misleading, explaining,

“…what I was referring to was the fact that this was a young man who volunteered to serve his country in uniform at a time of war. That, in and of itself, is a very honorable thing.”


Most Unethical Profession of the Year


Judges. Although this ward has usually gone to journalists or educators, judges had a remarkably unprofessional year, from Supreme Court justices  to the Federal judge who told the justices to “shut the fuck up,” to the municipal judge who tried and convicted two defendants of robbery and marijuana possession all by himself: no prosecutor, no jury, and no defense attorney, to the Cleveland judge who punched his wife in the face several times, bit her and choked her, all while driving his car with his children in the back seat.  It was so bad that I managed to miss this, which I will remedy now..

Most Inexplicable Unethical Conduct By Any Profession, Anywhere

The British prosecutors who charged Andrew Holland, a 51-year-old Welsh bus driver, with owning an extreme porn video featuring bestiality, with a woman having sex with a tiger. Holland lost his job, was targeted with hate mail from vigilantes, and he suffered a heart attack that he says was caused by the stress of the case. After inflicting all of this on Holland,  prosecutors  finally looked at the video closely, and, for the first time, with the sound turned on. The “tiger” was  a man in a tiger suit, as they realized when they heard the big cat growl out, in the throes of sexual ecstasy, “It’s grrrrrrrreat! 

Charges were then dropped.

Unethical Corporation of the Year

General Motors: It pursued the policy of paying large settlements with confidentiality agreements to those injured by ignition switch defects in their cars, never fixing the defect itself. This was the old Pinto calculation, reasoning that if it is cheaper to pay for the deaths and injuries from a design defect than to fix the defect itself, then it makes good business sense to keep doing that, indefinitely. There are three problems with this logic, of course. First, it kills people. Second, it is stupid: eventually the facts will get out, and the whole company will be endangered. Third, it is wrong. Mary Barra, G.M.’s CEO, was hailed when she began as G.M.’s first female CEO as a savior and an exemplar for rising female exceutives. All she proved was that women can be just as corrupt leaders as their male counterparts on the other side of that glass ceiling. She oversaw this ethics train wreck. The defense offered by her supporters was that she was too new to the job to be blamed for the scandal. Nonsense. She started working for General Motors at the age of 18, held a variety of engineering and administrative positions as she worked her way up the corporate ladder, and is steeped in G.M.’s flawed culture. In 2008 she became Vice President of Global Manufacturing Engineering’ in 2009, Vice President of Global Human Resources; in 2011, she advanced to become Executive Vice President of Global Product Development, which included responsibilities for design. She was immersed in an unethical culture, and eventually presided over it. G.M. has been using secret settlements for years. Barra knew the history, if she wasn’t directly complicit in them, and she well may have been. There was a scandal ten years ago when it was revealed that G.M. had been secretly settling cases involving exploding side-mounted gas tanks at the same time it was denying that those cars were unsafe. Meanwhile, G.M. General Counsel Michael P. Millikin was negligent in not knowing what was going on in the company, if indeed he did not know, as he has claimed. As The Legal Ethics Forum’s Richard Painter concluded: “G.M.’s General Counsel had a duty to ask about — and find out about — both serious safety problems with G.M.’cars and litigation against G.M. over car safety.  There is no way he could have represented the company in its disclosure to shareholders, or in connection with car safety issues, without affirmatively seeking out this information.  He apparently did not do so. On top of this, we have now learned about millions of dollars of “secret settlements” that were so secret that the … General Counsel of GM did not even know about them.  That was probably because [he] did not want to know, or did not care whether they knew about such settlements … That alone is unacceptable.”

Weenies of the Year

A tie!

The UCLA law students who were so emotionally upset because a legitimate Constitutional Law exam referenced the shooting of Michale Brown that they protested that the question was unfair.


Professor Robert Goldstein, who wrote the mean exam, and  law school Dean Rachel Moran both of whom apologized in an email in an e-mail to students, and promised to discount scores students received on the question if it lowered their test scores.

Unethical Cable TV Channel

The Discovery Channel.  In July it’s president, Paul Lewis, approved a promotional campaign for the  channel’s “Shark Week” that included a fake video,  intended to “go viral” and convince people that there are sharks in Lake Ontario. After the video prompted the Ontario Minister of Natural Resources  to warn swimmers and anxiety over the shark sighting was expressed in social media, the channel’s ad agency admitted that it was hoax. Lewis then offered a despicable, ethics-free “apology,” but never mind, there was more to come. At the end of the year, after concocting a plan to torture an anaconda in the wild by having it eat a naturalist and then have its meal forcibly disgorged (all filmed for a special called “Eaten Alive”), Discovery found that its plan was a dud, and the naturalist had chickened out the second the big snake got serious. This didn’t stop Discovery from attracting viewers with ads that claimed that On ‘EATEN ALIVE’…naturalist and wildlife filmmaker Paul Rosolie enters the belly of an anaconda in a snake-proof suit!” 

The Discovery Channel is now under new leadership. Too late.

Unethical Column or Blog Post

“The ‘torture’ memos prove America’s lawyers don’t know how to be ethical,” Law professor and public interest lawyer Alexa Van Brunt proposed a change to the legal ethics rules that would place us all at the mercy of lawyer whims and personal beliefs, eliminate the right to representation, and generally allow lawyers to rule the nation by allowing, indeed forcing, attorneys to make sure that their clients have the best interests of society in mind before they are deemed worthy of legal assistance.

The  Pazuzu Award

(Named for the demon that possessed Linda Blair in “The Exorcist” and made her say the nastiest things, the Pazuzu Award is bestowed on the prominent individual who denies responsibility for his or her actual words, claiming that they did not express what he or she really believes )


Sony Chairwoman Amy Pascal. When the Sony hacks, ostensibly from North Korea, revealed her making jokes with another executive suggesting that Barack Obama would only be interested in films involving slavery, the Hollywood liberal and Obama donor explained by saying that the comments were “not an accurate reflection of who I am.”

Unethical Trend of the Year

The demonization of police and law enforcement


And that’s a wrap on one of the most unethical years in memory.

Part 1 is HERE

Part 2 is HERE

Part 3 is HERE

If I left something out, keep it to yourself.

The Best of Ethics 2014 will be along soon.


31 thoughts on “The Sixth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2014 (Part 4 of 4)

  1. “If I left something out, keep it to yourself.” well, that cuts out most things I would be tempted to write about… ok, not really. I could dive into your archive looking for plausible runners up, but it would just be depressing, and I’d rather look forward to your best ethics post for the year.

    Maybe next year will be better for the discovery channel with new leadership. I’d like to think it couldn’t get any worse, but I’m way too cynical to believe any such thing.

    • I’m sorry, it’s just that I detest this exercise every year, finding old horrors I had repressed, typos I missed, and posts I had forgotten, and I;m desperate to be through with it.

      • I wonder if it would be less depressing to do the best and worst in parallel. It might not be possible to do a categorical match for best and worst though. I can’t think of any particular non-weenies of the year that you’ve mentioned, although there was at least one professor who in response to a request for an exam delay based on Ferguson wrote “No.” Of course the delicate snowflake requesting it posted the exchange with a trigger warning…

        I don’t recall if you mentioned the Oberlin request before, but if not it might be a nice addition to your best ethics post. If nothing else, maybe it will cheer you up a bit.

        I find these best and worst lists interesting, so thank you for writing them.

  2. I was gonna say for worst Fraud, what about that ridiculous poser who did the pretend sign language… then I realized that was 2013!

    The year has flown. Please can it just be 2016 when hopefully some grown-ups have a chance to be in charge?

  3. Why didn’t the tiger porn guy just say “it’s a man in a costume”? Speaking of, he really ought to go into the authentic tiger porn business; I can’t find any anywhere.

  4. A ray of hope regarding: “The UCLA law students who were so emotionally upset because … of Michael Brown that they protested that the question was unfair.”

    I was quite proud a local high school teacher who used Bill Cosby as a timely example of a “Fallen Hero”, allowing students a chance to pick apart his noble public facade and the grotesque horror beneath.

    (Other possible choices included the Honorable John G. Rowland, a man who’s hand I shook as a teenager myself when the former governor was being honored as “Distinguished Citizen of the Year”, which he accepted without any irony months before he went to federal prison for accepting illicit “donations” to his vacation home…)

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