Lunch Time Ethics Appetizer, 4/17/2019: Accountability, Conflicts of Interest, Incivility, Hype And Privilege

It’s a real ethics poop-poop platter…

1. Red Sox lousy start ethics. Boston Red Sox starting ace Chris Sale, widely regarded as one of the top two or three pitchers in baseball who signed a rich multi-year extension with the team right before the season began, lost his fourth straight start yesterday to begin the season. He told reporters, “This is flat-out embarrassing. For my family, for our team, for our fans. This is about as bad as it gets. Like I said, I have to pitch better…It sucks. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. I just flat-out stink right now.”

2. The Hollywood writers vs agents mess. I haven’t posted on this because I can’t find a copy of the controversial “Code of Conduct” that the agents refuse to sign. I also need to bone up on  the agency laws in New York and California. This article is a good summary of the show-down. Regarding the question of conflicts of interest in the practice of “packaging” and agents going into the production business, , however, it seems clear that the writers have the better arguments. From the article:

Packaging is a decades-old practice under which agencies may team writers with other clients from their stables for a given project. With packaging fees, an agent forgoes the usual 10 percent commission fee paid to them by individual clients; in its place, they are paid directly by the studio….The writers argue that agencies violate their fiduciary obligations to their clients when they make money from studios instead of from the people they are representing. The practice of accepting packaging fees, the writers say, allows the agencies to enrich themselves at the writers’ expense when they should be using their leverage to get more money for writer-clients.

Any time an agent gets paid by the party the agent is supposed to be negotiating with, that’s a textbook conflict. I’m amazed the agents have been getting away with this practice for so long. As for the production deals…

There are agency-affiliated companies that have moved into the production business — and this does not sit well with the writers unions. W.M.E., for instance, has an affiliate company called Endeavor Content. It was formed in 2017 and is a distributor of the show “Killing Eve,” as well as a producer of an epic drama coming from Apple TV Plus called “See.” C.A.A. also has an affiliate: Wiip. It is a producer of “Dickinson,” a comedy series that is also part of the Apple rollout scheduled for the fall. United Talent Agency is also getting in on production, with an affiliate called Civic Center Media. It has teamed up with M.R.C., the producer of “House of Cards,” to make new shows.

The agencies have argued that these affiliates are artist-friendly studios that will help writers, because they add to the number of potential buyers — which means more competition for writers’ services and bigger paychecks. The writers have said that agencies have a conflict of interest when they act as studios. How, they ask, can an agent represent you and also be your boss?

Bingo. The short and easy answer is “They can’t.”

Stay tuned…

3.  Florida lawyer suspended for social media incivility! This is unusual: Ashley Ann Krapacs, a Florida lawyer, launched a series of social media attacks on other lawyers and a judge so furious and uncivil that she was suspended  in an “emergency” action by the Florida Supreme Court. Florida is perhaps the strictest jurisdiction regarding lawyer civility, and its authority is the mysterious catch-all provision in the ethics rules that prohibits conduct “prejudicial to the administration of justice.” Among her attacks on  Fort Lauderdale attorneys, Russell Williams and Nisha Bacchus:

Williams had represented Krapacs’s ex-boyfriend in litigation against Krapacs….Krapacs discussed Williams’ behavior at a proceeding on a LinkedIn post, stating, “Oh, and opposing counsel blatantly flat-out LIED on the record. The judge didn’t even bat an eye.” In other social media postings, Krapacs refereed to Williams as an “old white male attorney” who was harassing her with meritless legal action. She also claimed the judge was part of the “Old Boy’s Club” because he ruled against her. Some of her posts were followed by #metoo, #endsexism, and #holymisogyny.

…Williams sued Krapacs for defamation. Williams hired Bacchus, his former intern, to represent him in the suit. Krapacs then composed derogatory posts against Bacchus…For example, Krapacs posted an Instagram directed at Bacchus, consisting of a Home Alone meme showing a kid pointing a gun at an individual captioned with “when opposing counsel tried to use the same exact trick you saw in your last case.” Krapacs also created YouTube videos calling the defamation lawsuit “25 pages of garbage, lies and fake news” and insulting Williams as “a moron, a sexist and a bully.”

4. Regarding  Pete Whateverhis name is: Ann Althouse has an especially snarky post about the Washington Post’s Amber Phillips most recent media hype for Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend. Ann concludes,

Let me restate Phillips’s 5 theories: 1. Buttigieg seems like a Republican. That feels kind of safe and it just might work. 2. He’s openly gay and he’s really really young. That’s exciting. 3. He’s not a Senator. Ugh! All those Senators! 4. You can picture him using his fancy words to flummox Trump.

5. Obama! Dreams of Obama! O! BAAAA! MAAAAAA!

In other words, no substantive reasons at all.

Obama rode to the Presidency with similar unicorns and rainbows rhetoric, which you would think, given his feckless and incompetent (and corrupt, as we continue to discover) Presidency, might make smooth-tongued cultish candidates less popular rather than more popular with voters who take their responsibility as citizens seriously.

There are two ethics issues here. One is that Buttigieg has no business running; he lacks both life and leadership experience, and his most likely effect will be to distract from more legitimate candidates and mess up the nomination process. The second is that the news media, as it did with Trump in 2015, is using a Fad of the Month justification to make Buttigieg better known and momentarily popular without doing it’s job, which is to examine his policies and background beyond his curriculum vitae.

The fact that he is running third to Bernie and Joe can and should be looked on as an insult, given that Joe is a serial harasser in the Age of #MeToo, Bernie is hypocritical socialist without significant executive experience, and both are too old.

We’ve seen other questionable Presidential candidates rise inexplicably and quickly fall to Earth. Ben Carson comes to mind. It is depressing that pure style and tribal membership status is enough to make people get excited about a candidate, but don’t worry: young and gay can’t overcome the fact that the Democrats have painted themselves into an unethical corner. They have to nominate either a “candidate of color” or a woman, even if nobody fitting those categories are strong candidates. The party has been bashing men and whites for years now. The party is stuck, and boy, does it deserve it.

5. The mirror image of letting poor people steal...has been the special leniency granted by prosecutors, judges and juries to the rich and famous, especially misbehaving Hollywood celebrities.  The word out of Hollywood is that  former “Full House” ingenue Lori Loughlin didn’t plead guilty like her fellow cheating helicopter mom/actress, Felicity Huffman, because she doesn’t believe any jury would send her to jail. We  shall see if the “oh, she would never do anything like THAT” bias saves her as it did O.J., Errol Flynn, Robert Blake and so many others.

26 thoughts on “Lunch Time Ethics Appetizer, 4/17/2019: Accountability, Conflicts of Interest, Incivility, Hype And Privilege

  1. 4. Pete lives in my neighborhood (4 blocks away). He has weighted the municipal budget toward aesthetics and away from core services, like sewers which back up in our neighbors houses during high river periods and rains. As we were formulating a response to the City of South Bend’s self perpetuated sewer problems, Pete (then Mayor for 6.5 years) showed up at a neighborhood meeting (totally legitimate), but brought 5 staff members (not legitimate) and invited the press to someone’s private home (definitely not legitimate). In short, he hijacked the meeting knowing we were pissed and kept us from reaching a consensus.

    Afterward, after reaching a consensus at a separate even more private meeting (no more Pete’s entourage allowed), the City arranged for a semi-public meeting with our neighborhood, but made sure the press was not allowed in. Yes. I am serious and on the level. Sound familiar? No dissent to be recorded.

    This piece sounds like over the top name dropping, but recently he has started attacking my college classmate Mike Pence. Mike knows Pete is gay and has been cordial, civil and even complimentary to him. Nevertheless Pete needs to energize his base against Pence…so, hate…hate…homophobe…etc.

    Our city has truly improved with Pete as Mayor, but as you have said, his experience in breadth and depth is woefully lacking.

    In a debate, however, Pete would, without any doubt, destroy Trump.

    • I have heard Pete’s bashing of Pence. Clearly you can tell he is very serious about “mending the polarization”.
      Good thing Kamala Harris is not going to let Pete go scot-free on account of being male, white and privileged. Now he may be gay, but I hear that nowadays that doesn’t have the same cachet as it used too.

    • So what you are saying is he can talk a good game but is manipulative and will not or cannot address core issues..

      • Not exactly. He misprioritizes. Example: City of South Bend Parks planned to spend $600,000 on a giant boom box to get kids outside to play in the parks. Yes, really.

        He seems to often misunderstand what is important and has had problems with streets as well, turning our main north-south thoroughfare into one lane each direction with a 30mph speed limit. Ridiculous.

        He is quite tone deaf to others favoring his own ideas and publicity.

        • Which street is that? I lived in South Bend for a few years about a decade or so ago, and with its mayor in the news now, I’m curious how it’s changed since I lived there.

  2. #4 I agree that Mayor Pete is about as solid as Beto in his accomplishment list. Both are ivy leaguers, but Pete has more of a perception as a “moderate”, even though if you listen to him speak, he basically supports all the major talking points, Medicare for all, reparations, freedom from want, blah, blah, blah. he comes off more polished than Beto, who comes off as weird. I watched the Fox News Bernie Sanders town hall (Good on Bernie for doing it) and I got a taste of what the Dems are going to sound like, and boy it’s stale. (Bernie is great for drinking games: millionaires, fair share, Koch brothers, human right, free, healthcare/tuition) It would be fun to watch a debate between Beto and Pete and see who can outpace each other on how much they care about the little guy, so on and so forth.

    #5 She might have a tough time. She is in fact a Rich White Lady, so there are a couple of multipliers working against her on this one. If she is getting tried in the Boston area, she’ll need more Wellesley suburbanite jurors than Roxbury city folk jurors.

  3. (3) I wonder if this is going to become more common in legal settings. The ‘blame men/whites/Christians/rich people when you don’t have a good argument’ seems to be the dominant persuasive technique taught in the major law schools now.

    (5) Remember, the crime is money laundering and tax fraud. If they had just paid the coach in cash, they may not be facing any charges for what they did. The university could sue them for fraud, but that would be about it, they wouldn’t be facing prison time. Even if they had ‘donated’ to the charity and NOT written the fake contribution off on their taxes, they might have been OK. Fraudulently getting their kids admitted to college is not the crime.

    Huffman got a doctor to diagnose her child as ADD/ADHD to allow for a private SAT given fraudulently by a college admissions coach for $15,000. She is in trouble because she ‘donated’ the $15,000 to the charity and was foolish enough to deduct it on her taxes. Loughlin is in real trouble because she ‘donated’ $500,000, which was written off on her taxes. Money was also moved in and out of the country to make the scheme harder to detect. A $500,000 tax evasion scheme get’s the government’s attention. She could be gambling on the idea that explaining this scheme to a jury may just confuse them and combined with her fame, could result in an acquittal. Only 25% of Democrats believe they got a tax cut, when almost all of them did. The money laundering explanation is going to be much more involved than comparing your tax rate from last year to this year.

  4. 5. There are lots of present and former prosecutors and defense people in the commentariat here at EA. Could they expand on why the Feds are bringing charges against people for gaming the college admissions game? Wouldn’t a good defense argue what these parents have done is no different than making a large donation to get their kid in? Who’s being bribed? A soccer coach? Is that an elected official? Don’t the schools have causes of action against the wayward employees? But is there a crime? Or are these torts? The old wire fraud catch all? Am I the only person wondering about this whole case?

    • I don’t think its a good argument or a legitimate defense. Schools have to be transparent in their policies: no school hides the fact that a family’s school ties and support may be considered in the admission process. Fake grades, fake tests, fake credentials, lying in applications are all indeed fraud. Rich kids withe same names a building at Harvard couldn’t hide why they were there, or pretend it was because they were natively brilliant (though they might be). Fraud is taking something of value by misrepresentation. Giving X money to the endowment as a quid pro quo may be ethically questionable or not, but giving X money to bribe the admissions officer, for example, is materially different.

      • As I pointed out above, I don’t think anyone is being prosecuted for any of that. They are being prosecuted for using a fake charity and money transfers to avoid paying taxes. That is where the money laudering charges come.

        As far as I know, there is no law against anything they did. The school could probably sue for fraud and could fire the coaches, but that is about it.

        • The definition of fraud is gaining something of value using dishonesty and misrepresentation. There’s no reason falsifying grades, test scores and athletic achievements to take a slot in an elite college wouldn’t qualify.

          • Perhaps, but that does not appear what is actually being prosecuted. They are being prosecuted for the money-laundering/tax evading fake charity only. Although the other activity may be worthy of prosecuting, it does not appear to be something that is happening. The academic ‘irregularities’ don’t appear to concern law enforcement.

  5. I’m not sure this is correct – “The party has been bashing men and whites for years now. The party is stuck, and boy, does it deserve it.”

    Every time some occasion to use a double standard arises, the democrats adopt the “Jumbo” defense. They can bash white guys all day long and still promote one to the top of their chosen list because their white guy, who is equally as bad or worse as any white guy on the right. Then they’ll come across with straight faces explaining how its not hypocrisy but somehow some type of racism, sexism, or whatever for pointing out their candidate’s flaws.

    Every time the left gets stuck, such as the Meuller Report, the cataclysmic failure to produce the desired indictments just results in moving the narrative from Trump collusion to Barr hiding the truth to tax records to whatever the ratings-demand will be today. They ignore the elephant and point to the next made-up issue.

    The same will happen with the primary contenders. The left is so fragmented by identity and victim politics they’ll never join forces enough to push a candidate who is so far off center they he/she/x doesn’t stand a chance against President Trump.

    • How many Democrats don’t fit that description, though? I see Biden, and Biden will lose the #MeToo voters, who will probably just stay home. An increasingly radical, anti-male, anti-white, youth-pandering party can’t stay together to back an old white guy, even to beat the hated Trump. It will be like 2012, when conservatives who detested Obama wouldn’t swallow their pride and vote for a competent centrist like Romney, only much, much worse. Extremists don’t behave rationallly. THat’s what makes them extremists/

      • There’s Sanders, who might qualify because he’s a JINO (Jew In Name Only, i.e. someone of Jewish heritage, but who doesn’t actively practice the religion), and that MIGHT get him past the white guy thing. It won’t get him past the fact that he’d be 80 his first year in office or that his appeal outside the college towns is very limited. O’Rourke is now dead in the water, as Buttigieg (who’s gay and that trumps all) has surpassed him as flavor of the month. I’d like to say Buttigieg will probably fade quickly due to his thin resume, but Obama had a pretty thin one too. Who’s to say he won’t become the gay Obama? It might not be enough, though, because the dirty secret no one wants to talk about is that blacks only turn out in numbers to vote for other blacks. They turned out here in droves in 2008 to elect Obama, but, despite billboards putting Obama in the foreground and Corzine behind him with exhortations to “keep it going!” didn’t turn out in 2009 to vote for the balding, rich white dude, clearing the way for a decisive win by Chris Christie. They voted in huge numbers for Obama in 2012, but where were they in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Madison, Milwaukee, Lansing, and Detroit in 2016? You can’t tell me those cities couldn’t have swung those three key states and put Hillary over the top. It’s put Harris or Booker up top this time out or lose. Maybe by 2024 they can eliminate the electoral college, though, and that changes everything.

        • Oh, I’ll say he won’t become the gay Obama. Women will resent a gay man taking “their” slot after Hillary was “robbed,” there is still strong anti-gay sentiment in blue collar districts, and blacks and Hispanics have strong anti-gay componants. Pete has no chance. None. And his youth ultimately hurts him, just as it did Rubio in 2016.

          And no, it will be impossible to eliminate the Electoral College, by 2024, or ever. It came as close as it ever has in the 70’s, but not enough states would sign on.

      • An increasingly radical, anti-male, anti-white, youth-pandering party can’t stay together to back an old white guy, even to beat the hated Trump. It will be like 2012,

        I wonder if these people are aware that this campaign strategy will alienate whites and males?

        Would the NSDAP in Germany have gotten off the ground if they scapegoated males instead of Jews?

  6. “…will be to distract from more legitimate candidates”

    Have any *actually* legitimate candidates fallen out of the Democratic clown car yet?

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