Tag Archives: Management

The Astounding, Clueless, Unethical And Doomed Hiring Of Brodie Van Wagenen

‘Conflicts of interest? I have no idea what you mean…’

Disclaimer: This is NOT a baseball ethics post. This is a business ethics post about a major ethics issue,  and the business happens to be a major league baseball team.

This week the New York Mets stunned the baseball world by hiring Brodie Van Wagenen—that’s him on the left—as its new general manager.

He is not only being hired to manage the business of a major league baseball team without having ever worked for a baseball organization in any capacity. That would be strange enough. He is also a player agent who has been the representative of several key players currently under contract to the Mets, meaning that he acted for them in negotiating against the team he now heads.Van Wagenen made $25 million in commissions last year on player contracts.

Anyone whose ethics alarms weren’t set ringing like the bells during the Great Chicago Fire by the Mets decision doesn’t understand what a conflict of interest is. Guess who this category includes. Yup: Van Wagenen and the New York Mets.

In a press conference at Citi Field, Mets executives were asked about the conflicts issue, which should have been predictable, mandating a careful, thorough answer.  As a player agent for Creative Artists Agency (Van Wagenen has divested himself of all shares in the company and future commissions…at least he figured out that much) Van Wageman’s responsibility was to negotiate the most lucrative contracts for his clients. As the a general manager for the New York Mets, his responsibility is to build a successful team within its resources, regardless of the best interests of his former clients, the players he worked with over the past 18 years. When the “C” word was raised bu reporters,  Mets President Fred Wilpon interrupted before Van Wagenen could answer  and said that he had spoken with the commissioner’s office and Major League Players Association chief Tony Clark, adding, “We have provisions in Brodie’s contract to deal with any conflicts of interest.”

Oh! Well never mind then! The contract deals with it, and the Mets have spoken to people! All taken care of!

Neither Wilpon nor Van Wagenen would say what those provisions were, but I guarantee this as an ethics specialist: the only provision that could effectively deal with Van Wagenen’s conflicts would be “Van Wagenen can’t be the Mets general manager.” Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Sports

Unfinished World Series Ethics Business

Today the victorious Boston Red Sox took their now traditional duck boat parade through Boston and down the Charles River, so even for the Sox, the 2018 season is officially done.  My job isn’t however, because there were two striking examples of moral luck and consequentialism during the World Series, and apparently I was the only one who noticed.

I. The “Bad News Bears” moment.

When Red Sox Game 4 starter Eduardo Rodriguez surrendered what seemed at the time to be a decisive three-run homer to Yasiel Puig, putting the Sox behind in the 6th inning 4-0, he angrily hurled his glove to the mound. Commentators joked about how he resembled the Bad New Bears’ combative, potty-mouthed shortstop Tanner in the Little League classic, but other than the ribbing, nobody criticized “E-Rod.” Indeed, his manager, Alex Cora, exonerated him for the home run, saying that he, the manager, screwed up by letting his tiring pitcher face the dangerous Puig.

Yet earlier this season, Boston reliever Carson Smith, regarded as an important member of the Red Sox relief squad, threw his glove in the dugout after giving up a home run, and partially dislocated his shoulder. He was lost for the season, and both team officials and Boston sportswriters blamed Smith for his injury. He injured himself you see. It was stupid and selfish, and showed him to be unprofessional and untrustworthy. Many thought Smith should be fined, or even released. Yet it was a completely freak injury. It wasn’t as if Smith had punched a wall or a water cooler. Baseball players throw their gloves all the time, and I’ve never seen it injure anyone. So why was Carson Smith treated as a pariah for throwing his glove, but Eddie Rodriguez doing the same thing shrugged off? The only reason is that Smith’s angry gesture happened to injure him , which nobody, including Smith, could have predicted. In fact, Rodriquez was more, much more, irresponsible than Smith, because he knew throwing a glove could cause an injury. He knew, because it happened to Smith. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, History, Leadership, Sports

Call Me Cynical, But When A Religious Leader Responds To A Scandal This Way, I Check My Pockets…

The Pope takes a page from Jimmy’s playbook!

Last week the Vatican  began a three-week-long assembly to discuss how to bring young people back into the Catholic Church. As the Synod of Bishops began, Pope Francis said, “This moment has highlighted a church that needs to listen.”

No, the moment  highlights a church that needs to stop letting its priests molest kids.

Protesters have been much in evidence at the gathering,  denouncing what they (and I) see as the Vatican’s refusal to take necessary actions to ensure that sexual predator priests and those who cover up for them be stopped. Said one protester, a victim himself, “They should center the discussions where it hurts most — and this is the outrageous abuse of power, and the thousands and thousands of children and young people hurt by officials of the church in the last decades all over the world. You can’t discuss youth without talking about this point.”

Other victims held up placards demanding, “No More Cover Up”; “Make Zero Tolerance Real”; “Establish an International Inquiry and Justice Commission”  in Italian and English.

So far, the Pope’s approach to the renewed scandal has been to point fingers, or change the subject. He did publish a letter in August that appeared to be a holy, Italian version of “huminahuminahumina,” as Ralph Kramden used to say when words and wit failed him in a crisis. That the Pope’s efforts to either ignore, or duck, or spin his accountability for the fact that children are still not safe around priests almost 20 years after the scandal of high-level cover-ups and the facilitating of serial sexual assaults in the Church across the globe were not going well became clearer than ever last week, when Francis adopted the same tragedy used by Jimmy Swaggert, Jim and Tammy Lee Baker, Ted Haggard and so many other TV evangelist con artists did when they were caught either with a hand up a dress or in the till.

He blamed the Devil. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Leadership, Religion and Philosophy

The Pope’s Letter On Sexual Abuse

Today Pope Francis released a letter responding to the horrific report on sexual assault involving 1,000 victims and 300 priests in the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania, where I just happen to be speaking today.

I know we are talking about a religious organization, but it is still an organization, a large, wealthy, international one, and any CEO (or, if you like, Chairman of the Board) would have to issue a formal response to a scandal of this magnitude and these damning realities. There is no mystery about what such a statement has to include, if it is going to be ethical rather than defensive, sincere rather than deceitful:

1. This is unacceptable for our organization, or any organization, but especially for an organization like this one.

2. We apologize unequivocally and without qualification to the victims and their families, as well as all members and supporters of our organization who trust us and rely on us to do the right thing. We did not do the right thing. We are responsible for terrible things, things no organization should ever allow.

3. Our organization and its leadership are accountable for these acts.

4. I am personally and professionally accountable for every crime and betrayal of trust in this scandal that occurred on my watch, and there were many.

5. Therefore, I resign [OPTIONAL BUT RECOMMENDED.]

6. It is undeniable that this scandal, which is a continuation of an ongoing scandal reaching back decades if not centuries, is a byproduct of a corrupt and pathological culture within this organization. This culture must change.

7. Here are the steps the organization will take, immediately and going forward, to change it.

The entire letter is below. My ethics verdict: it is the Papal version of  Authentic Frontier Gibberish, a tsunami of words designed to blur the issues and accountability. Prayer and fasting? Gee, why didn’t we think of that before! The Boston scandal that blew the top off of the Church’s world-wide coverup was 17 years ago: I’m pretty sure there has been a lot or praying and fasting since then. Obviously, it doesn’t work, not on this, and it is insulting and demeaning for the Pope to fall back on such reflex nostrums. Some lowlights: Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Leadership, Quotes, Religion and Philosophy, Workplace

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up: Algorithms, The Beatles, Baseball, Football, And Omarosa

Good morning.

1.  More Scorpion-Frog Ethics. I refuse to do a full post on Omarosa, the latest slimy opportunist the mainstream media is suddenly treating as a trsutworthy source because she claims to have dirt to spill on President Trump. To ist credit, NPR is at least flagging her sliminess, in a post titled “Omarosa Tells NPR She Heard Trump ‘N-Word Tape,’ Contradicting Her Own Tell-All Book.”

As I wrote regarding Manigault Newman previously (and the same applies to Michael Cohen), one can be nauseated by the disloyalty, dishonesty and venality of such scum and still have little sympathy for their victim, Trump, who was a fool to trust such obviously untrustworthy individuals, give them influences, notoriety and power they are unfit to have, and still claim to be hiring and appointing “the best people.”

The same sentiment applies to the biased, obsessed and incompetent news media. If journalists keep presenting present the likes of Omarosa, Cohen, Stormy Daniels, Michael Wolff, and, yes, James Comey, as credible first-hand Trump accusers, how can they expect the public to take any legitimate future accusers seriously, should any appear? Their predecessors will have all been obvious publicity-seekers, shake-down artists, motivated by personal agendas or greed, and obviously so. The news media, meanwhile, undermines its own credibility—what little remains–by so eagerly treating these tarnished sources as if they were not what they so obviously are.

2. They’re baaaack!. The NFL’s pre-season games are underway, and what do you know? The players are kneeling again, protesting during the National Anthem in what they deny is a protest of the National Anthem in what the news media regularly calls the “National Anthem protests.”  Wait, what’s that protest about, exactly? The New York Times has settled on “social inequality and police brutality.” And what do they mean? Here’s the latest interpretation by one of the most prominent Kneelers, Malcolm Jenkins of the Philadelphia Eagles:

“Before we enjoy this game lets take some time to ponder that more than 60% of the prison population are people of color. The NFL is made up of 70% African Americans. What you witness on the field does not represent the reality of everyday America. We are the anomalies…”

Anomalies because they aren’t in jail? That sounds rather racist to me. Anomalies because they make millions of dollars? Are the Kneelers saying that all African Americans should be making a lot of money? That prison populations should be representative of the same demographic percentages as the public as a whole? Is he calling for affirmative action in the courts (social justice, I guess) or claiming that the large black prison population is caused by police brutality?  That’s funny: I assume that it is because a disproportionate number of blacks are committing crimes. Is that their fault, or the fault of NFL ticket-holders? This remains the most incoherent, self-indulgent protest ever, and one that prompted one of the President’s more accurate tweets–-two, in fact:

The NFL players are at it again – taking a knee when they should be standing proudly for the National Anthem. Numerous players, from different teams, wanted to show their “outrage” at something that most of them are unable to define. They make a fortune doing what they love………..Be happy, be cool! A football game, that fans are paying soooo much money to watch and enjoy, is no place to protest. Most of that money goes to the players anyway. Find another way to protest. Stand proudly for your National Anthem or be Suspended Without Pay!

That last part relates to the also incoherent NFL policy on kneeling during the anthem. On this, Jenkins told Philly.com, “Quite frankly, guys in our league don’t like being told what to do, what they can and can’t do. We don’t have this type of policies for the other causes we support, whether it be our ‘Salute to Service,’ or breast cancer awareness, or anything else. It’s just when you start talking about black folks, quite frankly. It’s disheartening, but we’ll continue to be creative.”

Huh? Employers in all professions and occupations tell employees what to do, and on-the-job protests disrupting the workplace are universally forbidden. (I know you guys are “anomalies,” Malcolm, but you still collect a paycheck…) Do these players really not see the distinction between engaging in a league-approved promotion like ‘Salute to Service,’ or breast cancer awareness, and a wildcat protest that annoys and insults paying customers? Is anyone going to fact-check that misleading statement,  as someone like Snopes undoubtedly will, regarding the President’s mistaken claim that “most of that money goes to the players”?

Then, “quite frankly,” we get the race card. Of course! “When all else fails…”

Does anyone seriously believe that if only white football players were protesting during the National Anthem, nobody would object? Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Government & Politics, Quotes, Race, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology, Sports, Workplace

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/15/18: Spin Wars (Continued)

Hello again…

3. Spin of the Year: James Comey’s op ed in the New York Times.

Notes:

  • Comey writes,

“First, the inspector general’s team went through the F.B.I.’s work with a microscope and found no evidence that bias or improper motivation affected the investigation, which I know was done competently, honestly and independently.”

How lawyerly. This is deceit: a factual statement devised to deceive. Most will read this to mean that the investigation found no evidence of bias or improper motivation..\  That is untrue. In fact, as I have already pointed out in earlier posts, there is a great deal of evidence of bias. There is no  evidence that the bias affected the investigation, except the circumstantial evidence that the results of the investigation were consistent with the bias.

  • He writes of the IG department’s report,

“Its detailed report should serve to both protect and build the reservoir of trust and credibility necessary for the Department of Justice and the F.B.I. to remain strong and independent and to continue their good work for our country.”

What is this, confirmation bias run amuck? Rose-colored glasses? In one of its most consequential and high-profile cases, the report shows that the FBI was mismanaged, leaked to the news media, had unprofessional agents deeply involved with the matter, and did not follow its own procedures. This report will undermine trust in the agency, and should,

4. This is, broadly speaking, a pack of rationalizations…Lawfare, a Brookings ally, published an analysis called Nine Takeaways From the Inspector General’s Report on the Clinton Email Investigation.

I could use it in a seminar on rationalizations and equivocation. Behold the Nine: Continue reading

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How Does Any Administration Or Federal Agency Allow Someone This Incompetent To Represent It In Public?

I am both puzzled and aghast, if not necessarily surprised.

From the moment candidate Trump pledged that his theoretical administration would employ “the best people,”  he has periodically shown that he or his subordinates mistake “the best people” with “mouth-breathing idiots,  fools, and irredeemable slime-balls” with disturbing regularity. There was Omarosa. There was Anthony Scaramucci. There was Steve Bannon, and pathetic Reince Priebus. There was, of course, Michael Flynn, and is Scott Pruitt. And that is before we even start thinking about Michael Cohen.

I really don’t understand this. For all his flaws…and as Lorenz Hart said in “Pal Joey”…

…one would assume that a successful businessman whose hit reality show was about hiring “the best people” would have some acumen in at least not hiring the worst people. And yet we still get examples like this…. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media