Tag Archives: appearance of impropriety

Ethics Quote Of The Day: Charlotte Hogg, Ex-Bank of England COO

“However, I recognise that being sorry is not enough. We, as public servants, should not merely meet but exceed the standards we expect of others. Failure to do so risks undermining the public’s trust in us, something we cannot let happen. Furthermore, my integrity has, I believe, never been questioned throughout my career. I cannot allow that to change now. I am therefore resigning from my position. I will, of course, work with you through any transition.”

—-The Bank of England’s chief operating officer and incoming Deputy Governor for Markets and Banking, Charlotte Hogg, in her letter of resignation over criticism regarding a possible conflict of interest and her failure to report it.

Charlotte Hogg, a senior Bank of England official who had been named a deputy governor, resigned this week after a Parliament committee found that she had failed to disclose a potential conflict of interest: her brother held a senior position at Barclay’s during her time at the central bank. Hogg insisted that she never breached her duties or passed along any confidential information to her brother, but she had helped draft an industry ethics code of conduct policy required a disclosure of such conflicts. This creates doubts about her integrity, judgment competence, as well as the appearance of impropriety.

The Parliamentary committee recently issued a report finding that Ms. Hogg’s professional competence “short of the very high standards” required to be deputy governor, adding that her failure to disclose her brother’s role was a “serious error of judgment.”

This is one of my favorite kinds of conflicts, because it may be only appearances at stake. What if, as is often the case (sadly), Hogg and her brother are estranged? What if she doesn’t speak to him? What if they hate each other? Never mind: the public, not knowing this,  will suspect that she might use her position to favor him or his bank, so disclosure is crucial to maintaining public trust. Not disclosing, in contrast, raises suspicions. Why didn’t she let everyone know about her brother? What was she hiding? Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Business & Commercial, Ethics Quotes, Finance, Government & Politics, Public Service

Ethics Observations On The AG Sessions-Russian Ambassador Controversy

sessions-3

To bring you up to date—from the Times yesterday:

“…[N]ew questions were raised about Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s ties to the Russians. According to a former senior American official, he met with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, twice in the past year. The details of the meetings were not clear, but the contact appeared to contradict testimony Mr. Sessions provided Congress during his confirmation hearing in January when he said he “did not have communications with the Russians.”

“I have no idea what this allegation is about,” he said. “It is false.”

Sean Spicer, the Trump White House spokesman, said, “The only new piece of information that has come to light is that political appointees in the Obama administration have sought to create a false narrative to make an excuse for their own defeat in the election.” He added, “There continues to be no there, there.”

…On Wednesday, a Justice Department official confirmed that Mr. Sessions had two conversations with Ambassador Kislyak last year, when he was still a senator, despite testifying at his Jan. 10 confirmation hearing that he had no contact with the Russians. At that hearing, Mr. Sessions was asked what he would do if it turned out to be true that anyone affiliated with the Trump team had communicated with the Russian government in the course of the campaign. He said he was “not aware of any of those activities.”

“I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I didn’t have — did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it,” Mr. Sessions said at the time.

However, Justice officials acknowledged that Mr. Sessions had spoken with Mr. Kislyak twice: once, among a group of ambassadors who approached him at a Heritage Foundation event during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July and, separately, in an office meeting on Sept. 8. The contacts were first reported by The Washington Post.

From today’s Times:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, facing a storm of criticism over newly disclosed contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States, recused himself on Thursday from any investigation into charges that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election…Many top Democrats demanded Mr. Sessions’s resignation, and a growing number of Republicans declared that he should not take part in any investigation into the case, given his own still largely unexplained role in it.

But Mr. Trump stoutly defended Mr. Sessions, one of his few early champions on Capitol Hill. “He could have stated his response more accurately, but it was clearly not intentional,” he said in a statement, which accused Democrats of engaging in “a total witch hunt.”

…Mr. Sessions insisted there was nothing nefarious about his two meetings with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, even though he did not disclose them to the Senate during his confirmation hearing and they occurred during the heat of the race between Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, and Mr. Trump, whom Mr. Sessions was advising on national security….

In his account on Thursday of the more substantive meeting, which took place in his Senate office on Sept. 8, Mr. Sessions described Mr. Kislyak as one of a parade of envoys who seek out lawmakers like him to glean information about American policies and promote the agendas of their governments.

“Somehow, the subject of Ukraine came up,” Mr. Sessions said, recalling that the meeting grew testy after the ambassador defended Russia’s conduct toward its neighbor and heaped blame on everybody else. “I thought he was pretty much of an old-style, Soviet-type ambassador,” Mr. Sessions said, noting that he declined a lunch invitation from Mr. Kislyak.

Mr. Sessions’s decision to recuse himself was one of his first public acts as attorney general. He said he made the decision after consulting with Justice Department officials, and he denied misleading Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, when he said in his confirmation hearing that he had not met with Russian officials about the Trump campaign.

“In retrospect,” Mr. Sessions told reporters, “I should have slowed down and said, ‘But I did meet one Russian official a couple of times, and that would be the ambassador.’ ”

Observations:

Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Social Media, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President

From The Ethics Alarms “Doing The Right Thing For The Wrong Reason” Files: The President Snubs The White House Correspondents Dinner

trump-tweet-dinner

President Donald Trump has declined the invitation to attend the White House Correspondents Dinner, becoming the first President to skip it since Ronald Reagan in 1981, who missed the dinner while recovering from an assassination attempt but still delivered remarks over the phone.

Good.

Once, before it was televised, over-publicized, and hyped, before Presidents started hiring comedy writers to give them professional qualify stand-up material, and especially before the last eight years of an event that looked like the President was fraternizing with complacent and sycophantic supporters and cronies—which he was— the dinner served the purpose of sending a salutary message that the relationship between the press and the President in power was adversarial but not personal, and that like all professionals, the adversaries could disagree intensely on important issues and have a congenial beer together later. It had become a classic example of the appearance of impropriety, however, going hand and in hand with Joe Biden’s “Super-Soaker” party for journalists that I examined in 2010.

Let me take you down on a stroll down Memory Lane. After Wolf Blitzer, Ed Henry and others appeared on You-Tube giggling and playing games with Vice President Biden, Rahm Emanuel and other Obama administration officials at the Biden-hosted party, Glenn Greenwald wrote,

I personally don’t think that these types of interactions ‘violate journalistic ethics,’ because I don’t think such a thing exists for them.  Rather, all of this just helpfully reveals what our nation’s leading “journalists” really are:  desperate worshipers of political power who are far more eager to be part of it and to serve it than to act as adversarial checks against it — and who, in fact, are Royal Court Spokespeople regardless of which monarch is ruling.  That’s why they’re invited into the heart of Versailles to frolic with the King’s most trusted aides:  it’s their reward for loyal service as Court courtiers.”

To which I added,

It’s not very complicated: if the public believes that journalists are inclined to be favorable toward government officials because they like them, get benefits from them, and seek their approval, then they cannot trust the objectivity of the news. The Biden party proves that some prominent journalists either don’t understand this, or don’t care.

Now, after 8 years,  we know: they don’t care. Their relentless partisan bias has become transparent, and journalists, as well as the beneficiaries of their bias, are content to continue denying it, pointing to the solid and fair reporting mixed in with the deceptive and incompetent stories. The White House Correspondents Dinner has been both the product of an illicit relationship between the White House and the press, and proof of it. To bolster the public’s trust, to avoid conflicts of interests and to reduce the appearance of impropriety, Presidents, Vice-Presidents and high government officials should not participate in this event or others like them—OR super-soaker parties at the VP’s mansion. Continue reading

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The Strange Story Of How Alabama Corruption Threatens To Infect The U.S. Senate

That's Senator Starnge on the right, and Governor Dormammu on the left...

That’s Senator Strange on the right, and Governor Dormammu on the left…

Personally, I love the idea of Congress having a “Senator Strange.” The movie almost writes itself, with a Senator who has magic powers and who says things like “By the Hoary Hordes of Hogarth! Point of order!”

But not like this.

Now bear with me. This is a complicated story and will take a while, but as Keven Costner says to James Earl Jones (as Terrance Mann) in “Field of Dreams,” “It’s a good story.”

And a really, really strange one, in more ways than one..

When the Senate confirmed Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General in hearings that may be best remembered as the time Elizabeth Warren earned the fawning admiration of feminists by behaving like a mean-spirited jerk, it meant that Alabama’s Republican governor got to appoint his successor. There wasn’t much discussion in the news media about who this might be, because it’s hard for journalists to inform the public properly when it is concentrating on bringing down the President, per the orders of their Eldritch Progressive Masters—sorry, I’ve got Dr. Strange stuff rattling around in my brain now—but there was some interesting speculation in Alabama.

You see,  Republican Governor Robert Bentley is fighting to avoid  impeachment as the result of a sex scandal, and one that called his honesty into question as well.

An official fired by Bentley alleged that the Governor had engaged in an extramarital affair with his senior political adviser, Rebekah Caldwell Mason. An audio recording surfaced in which Bentley told a woman named “Rebekah” that he “worr[ied] about loving you so much” and that “[w]hen I stand behind you, and I put my arms around you, and I put my hands on your breasts […] and just pull you real close. I love that, too.” At a press conference, Bentley apologized for the comments but denied having an affair and stated that his relationship with Mason was purely platonic.

Sure. Continue reading

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The President’s Ethics Grades So Far

six-pillars

Is it fair to grade President Trump on his ethics after less than a month? Of course. If he wanted to pay attention to this area, the President would certainly seek an objective progress report. There has been enough activity in three weeks to give some preliminary grades. Ethics Alarms began this adventure with low expectations; after all, I have never read or heard a single statement from the President, ever, that suggests that he thinks about or cares about ethics at all. His behavior and opinions appear to be entirely governed by rationalizations, emotions, and impulse. However, we do have hope, and three weeks of a presidency is not sufficient to extinguish it. There is plenty of time for President Trump to address his ethical shortcomings

Let’s use the Josephson Institute for Ethics’ Six Pillars of Character for this exercise. All graded categories should be regarded as incomplete, and the offered grades as provisional only. Remember, these are ethics grades only.

I. TRUSTWORTHINESS, including Honesty in communication, Candor, Truthtelling, Reliability, Sincerity, Honesty in Conduct, Integrity, Loyalty

The President and his agents, like Spicer and Conway, have been especially loose with facts and assertions, some of which can be excused a bit as carelessness, but the sheer volume of misinformation is daunting. I suppose one could argue that Trump is reliably unpredictably, but that’s not what the value of reliability is all about. The President’s astounding verbal sloppiness makes it impossible to gauge sincerity (is he really out to ban Muslims, or just determined to keep out Muslim terrorists?) I score Trump relatively high on integrity, as shown by his Inaugural speech. Whatever he thinks he means, he really means it. (The contrast is Hillary Clinton.) Trump is loyal. Loyalty is a troublesome value that can be abused as often as not: he was loyal to appoint Ben Carson to the cabinet, but it’s still an unethical act, since Carson is unqualified beyond belief. But loyalty also covers conflicts of interest, and the appearance of impropriety. The President’s conflict of interest problems have not been seriously addressed, and won’t be.

He hasn’t been trustworthy, so his grade here is..

F

II. RESPECT, including Civility, Courtesy, Decency, Dignity, Tolerance, Acceptance, Autonomy Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Leadership

Why Health and Human Services Nominee Price’s Smoking Gun Ethics Breaches Won’t Disqualify Him

smoking-gun

There was good news on the Trump Administration Ethics Train Wreck, still just pulling out of the station. Despite the ethically-challenged reaction fro the Trump transition team when it was revealed that Monica Crowley had plagiarized in her latest book, somebody, somewhere, persuaded the conservative radio talk-show host to resign her new White House post. Good. But as many—most?—predicted, the muck is just beginning to bubble to the surface.

CNN reports that Rep. Tom Price,Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services who will have much of the responsibility for dismantling Obamacare  without triggering a health system crash, appears to have engaged in a flagrant instance of using his position for financial gain.  Last year, Price purchased shares in Zimmer Biomet, a medical device manufacturer [Full disclosure: I have one of their artificial hip joints, setting off metal detectors at airports all over the world] right before he introduced  legislation that would have directly benefited the company.

Price bought between $1,001 to $15,000 worth of shares in the company last March, and then, less than a week after the transaction,  introduced the HIP Act (Clever!) to delay until 2018 a regulation that industry analysts believed  would significantly hurt Zimmer Biomet, one of two companies most affected by a regulation that limits payments for joint implant procedures. Not only did Price have a financial stake in the regulation he tried to stall,but after Price introduced  his bill, Zimmer Biomet’s political action committee donated to the Georgia congressman’s reelection campaign.

Merely a coincidence, I’m sure.

Price is scheduled to appear before the Senate Health Committee this week, and the Senate Finance Committee later. He should withdraw, or failing that, Trump should pull the nomination. Price’s purchase of the Zimmer Biomet shares isn’t the first time he’s used inside information (the inside information being “I’m going to propose a bill”) to buy shares in a company. The Wall Street Journal reported last month that he traded roughly $300,000 in shares over the past four years in health companies while pursuing legislation that could affect their bottom lines.

Yeccch. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership

Now THAT’S A Trump Bribe…Wait, Wait, I Mean The APPEARANCE Of An ALLEGED Bribe!

Why is Pam smiling?

Why is Pam smiling?

After his election victory, Donald Trump agreed to pay out $25 million in settlement  of claims against the new defunct Trump University. In September, before the election, the Florida Attorney General’s office had announced that that there were “insufficient grounds” to proceed with a fraud probe of the school. Three years earlier, it had announced that it was considering such a probe in anticipation of legal action against Trump University.

Four days after that threat, Donald Trump’s personal charity illegally donated $25,000 to a political group supporting Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s re-election campaign. Bondi personally solicited that donation from Trump just as her office was deciding whether to pursue the Trump U. investigation. (This is almost certainly an prosecutorial ethics violation, as well as being obviously corrupt.) This revelation by the Associated Press emerged during the campaign, and was swamped by all the other Trump controversies at the time.

Yesterday, Trump’s transition team told Bloomberg that Pam Bondi has accepted a job in Trump’s White House. Continue reading

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